Could Bedford benefit as Debenhams announces MK store closure?

Debenhams MK
The Debenhams store at Intu in Milton Keynes will not reopen after lockdown

As Debenhams confirms its Bedford store would be among 50 to reopen, the retailer has announced their Milton Keynes branch will permanently close.

The department store has failed to reach an agreement on rent with Milton Keynes’ shopping centre owner Intu.

It’s among three branches to close, the others are at the Intu-owned Metrocentre in Gateshead and Watford shopping centres.

Debenhams went into administration at the beginning of lockdown and has announced it will reopen 120 of its 142 stores – of which Bedford is among the first 50 to reopen.

Read: Bedford welcomes customers with wider pavements, cycle lanes and Debenhams to re-open

The Debenhams announcement comes just four months after House of Fraser closed its Milton Keynes store.

Victoria’s Secret, which occupies a large unit at Intu is also in financial difficulty.

The re-structuring of debts by Intu tenants, plus closure of many stores due to the coronavirus pandemic, have had a knock-on effect to the mall operator and the amount of rent it has collected has plummeted.

Reacting to the news, Bedford Town Centre Champion, Helen Patterson, said, “The sad news that Debenhams in Milton Keynes is set to close down permanently could be news for Bedford.

“The Centre:MK shopping centre saw its House of Fraser (HoF) store close their doors earlier this year (31 Jan) so the loss of Debenhams is bound to be a heavy blow.

“We have been luckily enough to retain our store and people are already excited about its reopening on 15 June.

“Fans of the former HoF and Debenhams at MK may be drawn to Bedford’s Debenhams branch – I certainly hope they are.

“With the recent closure of Beales in Bedford, Debenhams is the last department store standing.

“If Debenhams can improve their brand and product mix at the Bedford store, and keep their lift in working order, they could really benefit from the closure of the MK branch.

“Bedford benefits from an eclectic mix of independent shops who will undoubtedly work really hard to ensure they can continue to operate their fantastic businesses whilst adhering to social distancing policy.”