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Debenhams closure: hundreds of NI jobs at risk amid loss of anchor tenant

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Shoppers inside CastleCourt after it reopened

Shoppers inside CastleCourt after it reopened

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Shoppers inside CastleCourt after it reopened

Hundreds of jobs are now on the line with here with the proposed closure of high street giant Debenhams.

The chain has five branches and around 700 staff here.

It comes as JD Sports pulled out amid talks of a rescue deal for the chain.

Debenhams has already been facing stark difficulties over the last couple of years, and up until today, had been in administration.

“On conclusion of this process, if no alternative offers have been received, the UK operations will close,” Debenhams said in statement.

And aside from the huge impact to workers here – facing an uncertain future – the loss of a department store such as Debenhams means a reverberating impact on the locations it’s leaving behind.

Debenhams is an anchor tenant for locations across Northern Ireland, including Belfast’s CastleCourt and Derry’s Foyleside.

And alongside the collapse of the Arcadia Group – which includes high street brands Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins – it means, Covid-19 aside, many of major retail hubs will feel yet further long-term drops in footfall.

Simon Hamilton, chief executive of Belfast Chamber, says the city “now needs urgent assistance form our government”.

“They need to work with the city’s business community, Belfast City Council and other stakeholders to help address the crisis we are currently facing and put in place a properly resourced plan to rebuild Belfast and ensure it fulfils its potential in the future.

“Retailers and our hospitality sector who rely on each other for trade and custom also need clarity quickly that they will be receiving a rates bill for the next financial year.

And the SDLP’s economy spokesperson, Sinead McLaughlin, said added that the administrations of Arcadia and Debenhams illustrate the need to reimagine Northern Ireland's urban centres to give them a future.

“The high street that we grew up with has gone and will not return. Changing shopping patterns and the growth of the internet are destroying many of the brands that we have known over many years. The urban centres have to be reimagined and reshaped to make them viable for the future.

"We need to bring back more people to live in our town and city centres, recreating viable and sustainable urban centres once the coronavirus has been overcome. Ensuring there is demand from people who live near to shopping centres can protect our urban environment. We need to build more city and town centre apartments, convert unused shops into homes and have empty space above shops converted into apartments.

“Together, this can create new urban environments and support the re-emergence of the hospitality and retail sectors."

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