End of an era as Ipswich Debenhams closes
- Credit: Paul Geater
Ipswich Debenhams has closed its doors to the public for the last time - as the freehold of the building passed into the hands of East Anglian property giant The Unex Group.
There were last-minute queues of bargain-hunters seeking last-minute buys - but people waiting to get in did not find much on offer.
It was clear from the outside that most of the shelves were bare with few more items to be sold.
The Ipswich Debenhams is the first in the area to be shut because Unex, which was founded by legendary racehorse owner Bill Gredley, completes its £3million deal to buy the building today.
Debenhams stores in Bury St Edmunds, Colchester and Chelmsford are all expected to close their doors for the last time over the next fortnight.
The future for the building is not immediately clear although the Unex Group has indicated that one floor is likely to be retained for commercial use while the rest is redeveloped - however no plans have yet been drawn up and are likely to take several months before they are confirmed.
The store's closure marks the end of two centuries of retailing. The original Footmans store was founded in 1815 and moved to its site on the corner of Westgate Street and Lloyds Avenue in 1842.
It was renamed in the early 1970s and rebuilt over several years at the end of the decade - leaving the building that is now becoming empty.
The closure has been greeted with sadness by many people - and hope that Unex may give the site a new lease of life.
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But Ipswich Central Chief Executive Paul Clement said his thoughts were with those who have lost their jobs. He said: "There are many very skilled members of staff there who will not have a job when they wake up tomorrow and this is a very difficult time to be looking for something else.
"The shop itself is just bricks and mortar and to be honest this is the end of process that has been going on for years with Debenhams, it wasn't Covid that killed it off although it might have speeded things along - but for the people who work there this is really shattering and I really feel for them."