Debenhams have released a list of 22 stores that will close on 22 January and Bedford’s town centre store is not on the list.
The news will come as relief to many who had feared the store would close when the holding company was taken over by investors (a group of banks and hedge funds) in a pre-packaged administration deal.
Those investors are now rolling out a major store-closure programme that will see 50 of the worst performing stores close as part of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
As reported in the Bedford Independent last month, the CVA suggested some of these stores could close as early as January 2020.
Many had feared Bedford would be amongst them but it seems our local Debenhams has been given a welcome reprieve, at least for now.
Bedford may still be amongst the next 28 stores that closes. There’s been no indication when that list will be released or when their closure date will be.
Helen Patterson, who runs, the Town Centre Champions – Bedford Facebook page said: “This gives us short term relief and gives the public the opportunity to support Debenhams and show how important and much loved they are in the town.
“Let’s do everything we can to make sure our Debenhams is not on future closure lists.
“Knowing the store isn’t going to close in the new year means consumers can shop over the holiday period without the fear of wondering how they are going to return items as our store will still be open.
“Let’s not be that town that in six months time says ‘it’s a shame that we don’t have a Debenhams anymore, yet you have only shopped there at Christmas'”
Meanwhile, Conservative Mayoral Candidate, Gianni Carofano said: “This is great news. With Marks and Spencer closing on 4 May, we really did not need another big name retailer leaving Bedford, so I’m really pleased.
“However, this is the first wave of closures they have announced, so we can’t be complacent. I’ve repeatedly said that we need to buck up our ideas regarding the Town Centre if we are to compete against other towns.
“It’s imperative that we clean up the Midland Road area to make the gateway into Town more attractive, and then come up with a strategy to make sure that all businesses, both national and independent, can thrive in Bedford.
“It’s what we all want, it’s what Bedford needs and deserves.”
Mayor Dave Hodgson added: “It’s obviously good news that our Debenhams is not amongst this national list of closures.
“Debenhams’ problems illustrate the crisis facing all UK town centres due to the rise of online and out-of-town shopping and other trends.
“That’s why we’re pursuing a vision which will help Bedford continue to buck the trend, and be an attractive destination not only for retail but also leisure, culture, food and drink and more.
“We’re already making real progress, for example with new riverside public space, restaurants, cinema and more at Riverside Bedford, and an empty shop rate which is falling and is lower than nearby towns.”
Jenni Jackson, Labour’s mayoral candidate agreed: “This is welcome news both for customers, staff and for Bedford. Clearly it would be a blow to the town centre to lose Debenhams.
“However, we know there are more store closures to be announced. A lack of Government investment and a rise in online shopping have hurt our high streets.
“The Council must be ready to engage with Debenhams and ensure that staff are protected. In the long term we need to invest in our town centres to ensure that high quality retailers want to open in Bedford not leave.”
The Green’s mayoral candidate, Adrian Spurrell, agreed that we need to support our town centre but highlighted that evolution is needed too: “While I’m very pleased for all those whose livelihoods rely on Debenhams, we have to accept the reality that department stores as a concept are struggling and we have to assume that if it’s not closing now, there’s a strong likelihood that it will do at some point in the future.
“We therefore have to focus on the urgent task of revitalising Bedford by moving to a circular economy, attracting green technology into the area and creating a mixed purpose town centre without cars.”
UKIP mayoral candidate, Adrian Haynes, added: “I am delighted to hear that Bedford branch of the institutional Debenhams store is not included in the New Year’s closure list and hope Bedford shoppers and workers enjoy many years of mutually productive experience.”
Christina Rowe, Director of Operations at Bedford BID, added: “Speaking with the management team and staff of Debenhams Bedford this morning, we are all delighted to hear that the Bedford store will remain open but people need to show their support by visiting.”
The stores that have been announced as closing in 2020 are:
- Birmingham Fort
- Great Yarmouth
- Welwyn Garden City
We’ll bring you more as we have it…