Can shoppers, businesses, and council save Ipswich Debenhams?
- Credit: JUDY RIMMER
Business leaders in Ipswich will do all they can to try to keep the largest store in the town centre – but are believed to accept the fate of Debenhams may be out of their hands.
The future of the store on the Cornhill has a huge question mark on it after the news that the company had gone into administration and is effectively now being run by its lenders.
The management has said it is still aiming to shut about 50 of its 165 stores in a bid to cut debt – and the future of individual stores is likely to be determined by negotiations with landlords.
The company signed a 125-year lease for its store in Ipswich in 2013 – but administrators are expected to try to get a rent reduction.
Terry Baxter, chairman of Ipswich Central which represents businesses in the heart of the town, said: “We will do all we can to try to keep Debenhams here. It is a very important presence in the town centre – and we must not forget that hundreds of people rely on the Ipswich store for their work.”
However despite the desire to retain the store, business and council officials are believed to accept that the fate of the store is more likely to be decided by negotiations between the administrators and the landlords than by anything they can do.
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Among shoppers in the town centre there was a clear feeling that it was vital to retain the Debenhams store on the Cornhill.
Eric and Betty Miller from Capel St Mary said Debenhams was very important to the town – they used it to buy household goods like towels and kitchenwares.
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Mr Miller said: “It’s a very important part of the town centre, and we read that there were fears that Marks and Spencer could go to another site to the west of the town. It would be a real shame for Ipswich town centre.”
Market trader Mitch Lloyd said one of his customers had been to the store early on Tuesday to make sure they could use some gift vouchers in case the administrators were not able to accept them later.
Other shoppers said they would be “devastated” to lose the store: “It’s such an important part of the town. I don’t go there every time I come in here, but I always get my perfume from there – I don’t know what we’d do without it. They’ve got to keep this store open, it’s always busy in Ipswich,” said one shopper rushing to catch a bus.