Debenhams shoppers have been snapping up bargains as the department store prepares to close its doors for the final time today.
The chain launched a post-lockdown fire sale before the chain shutters its branches countrywide, marking the end of a 242-year presence in Britain’s towns and cities.
It collapsed at the end of last year, with the closure of all its stores confirmed after Boohoo agreed to only buy its website and brand in a £55million rescue deal.
This week customers have been taking to social media to show off their bargain deals.
One revealed they picked up a £100 dress for £18, while another stocked up on YSL make-up, reduced from £30 to £6, and one snapped up a pair of Faith boots, now £6 from £129.
As shoppers rushed to take advantage of Debenham’s final day bargains, one snapped up these Faith boots in a size six, reduced from £129 to £5
Another happy customer picked up a BaByliss Curl Secret Simplicity Gift Set which an 80 per cent reduction, taking it from £120 to £24
One customer shared this snap on the Extreme Couponing and Bargains Facebook group, explaining: ‘Went into Debenhams and found this dress didn’t have a sale tag on it. Took it to the checkout £18! Should have been £100! Can’t wait to wear it for my cruise, hopefully it goes ahead’
Many items have also had their prices slashed on the Debenhams website, from clothing to fragrance.
Meanwhile Debenhams employees past and present have been sharing nostalgic stories about their time working there. Long-time customers also expressed their disappointment that the store will no longer be a feature on their local high street.
Glenis Thompson and Julie Howe have worked at the Mansfield branch of Debenhams since the 1970s, and described it as a ‘family’ – but acknowledged the company sadly ‘lost its way’.
Julie told the BBC the volume of people coming through the doors in its heyday was ‘frantic’ and ‘unbelievable’, but they’d noticed it become ominously quieter.
This bargain hunter managed to pick up a set of YSL make-up at Debenhams, reduced from £30 to just £6
Of the more bizarre items on sale, one shopper picked up a pork scratchings advent calendar from The Snaffling Pig Co., reduced from £17 to just £1
Another happy shopper shared a snap of her Debenhams haul, picked up all these items worth £310 for just £67 in the Meadowhall branch in Sheffield
Another Debenhams shopper picked up a collection of dresses at the Gloucester store, all of which were reduced to £2 each – with one originally priced at £160
This gentleman’s dinner shirt and tie was reduced to just £4 after an 85 per cent reduction in the Debenhams sale
This shopper shared a snap of her Debenhams bargain on Instagram, revealing the sequin maxi dress was reduced from £90 to £12
‘We could tell standing on the shop floor what money was going through the tills, how quiet your peak times started to dwindle off and you just know,’ she said.
‘It isn’t all about online and Covid. The company lost its way, which is very sad. It’s not easy, not when you’ve seen all those years.’
Glenis added: ‘It’s been my whole life there, I grew up there and I grew old there. It’s going to hit a lot of us. The majority of staff have been there decades, longstanding staff. Turnover of staff was minimal.
‘I just hope the high street can be reinvented. It can be a different way, you know that it will never be like what we experienced.’
Glenis Thompson and Julie Howe have worked at the Mansfield branch of Debenhams since the 1970s, and described it as a ‘family’
Many dismayed Britons took to Twitter today to express sympathy to staff putting in their final shift.
Jan tweeted: ‘The day has finally arrived. My last shift at work, as the remaining 28 Debenhams stores close their doors for the last time. It’s hard to believe that five years ago there was 165 stores! It’s going to be a tough, strange, emotional bay. I’ll battle through.’
Neil Patel wrote: ‘Aw @Debenhams you’ll be missed on the high street. My thoughts go out to all the staff who worked there.’
And another Twitter user commented: ‘Lots of great memories of #Debenhams in Birmingham. Sorry for loss of jobs for the employees.’
Many dismayed Britons took to Twitter today to share their sadness about the department store disappearing from high streets while others expressed sympathy to staff putting in their final shift
The rise and fall of Debenhams: How 242-year-old retail chain met its demise in 2020
Debenhams has been a mainstay on UK high streets for 242 years, but is now shutting its doors for good.
In 1778 William Clark opened a drapers store on 44 Wigmore Street in central London, selling expensive fabrics, bonnets, gloves and parasols.
The business had a modest start in life, with Mr Clark continuing to run the single store until meeting a potential investor.
William Debenham formed a partnership with the store owner in 1813, pumping funds into the business which then became Clark & Debenham.
Five years later it opened its first store outside the capital, in Cheltenham, and started to dramatically expand.
The business became Clark & Debenham, after William Clark opened a drapers store in 1778 on 44 Wigmore Street in London. Mr Clark had initially opened the shop selling expensive fabrics, bonnets, gloves and parasols, before it was renamed
Glamour model Gemma Atkinson launches an Ultimo store within Debenhams in Belfast in December 2007
Shoppers are seen charging through the doors of a Debenhams department store on the first day of the sales in 1977
Penny Lancaster models Ultimo lingerie at Debenhams on Oxford Street in October 2002 (left), while Kim Kardashian launches her ‘True Reflection’ fragrance range at a Debenhams store in London ten years later in May 2012
Shoppers browse for bargains at a Debenhams department store at the start of its sale on December 27, 1977
When Clement Freebody invested in the firm in 1851 it was renamed Debenham & Freebody, and continued to grow by snapping up smaller rivals and expanding its wholesale operations.
Acquisitions continued into the next century and in 1905 Debenhams Ltd was formed.
After the First World War ended, the retailer merged with Marshall & Snellgrove, and in 1920 purchased Knightsbridge retailer Harvey Nichols.
Seven years later the Debenham family exited the business as it was listed on the London Stock exchange.
By 1950, Debenhams was the largest department store group in the UK, owning 84 companies and 110 stores.
In 1985 Debenhams merged to become part of Burton Group, which soon rebranded as Arcadia, before splitting away 13 years later after a period of rapid store expansion and the launch of its first international franchise sites.
William Debenham (above) formed a partnership with drapers store owner William Clark in 1813, pumping funds into the business which then became Clark & Debenham. Five years later it opened its first store outside the capital, in Cheltenham
Crowds of shoppers pack into the Debenhams on London’s Oxford Street for the post-Christmas sales in December 1982
Margot Perry, who was first in line, has her hair set while queuing for the start of the Debenhams sale in December 1977
Bargain hunters burst into Debenhams department store at 9am on December 27, 1977 for the start of the winter sales
Following demerger from the Burton Group, Debenhams was listed on the London Stock Exchange until 2003, when it was acquired by Baroness Retail.
Baroness, backed by private equity firms CVC Capital Partners and Texas Pacific Group, started to strip the company’s assets, including a £450 million sale and leaseback of 26 properties and internal cost-cutting.
Three years later, Baroness almost tripled its value as it was floated on the stock market, but the retail group was now weighed down by a portfolio hamstrung with expensive rental agreements.
Nevertheless, Debenhams continued to grow, acquiring nine stores from Roches in the Republic of Ireland in 2007 and Magasin du Nord, the leading department store chain in Denmark, two years after.
The company also had a partnerships with Michelle Mone’s Ultimo bra company in the 2000s, which led to a series of photoshoots with glamour models inside its stores.
In 2014, after a decline in company profits, retail tycoon Mike Ashley bought 4.6 per cent of the company’s shares.
People queue outside Debenhams on Oxford Street ahead of the sale opening on December 27, 1978
Sir Ralph Halpern is pictured in Debenhams Oxford Street in November 1985 after his latest acquisition for the Burton Group
A Debenhams store in Manchester is pictured in 1981. In 1985 Debenhams merged to become part of Burton Group, which soon rebranded as Arcadia, before splitting away 13 years later
Businessman Sir Ralph Halpern, pictured at Debenhams Oxford Street with store manager David Elliott, in November 1985
The Debenhams store at Luton in Bedfordshire is pictured in July 1987
He steadily increased his ownership of the department store business, expanding it to 29.7 per cent by 2018.
However, the business had now felt the full effect of difficult high street conditions and sky-high rents, resulting in a £491 million pre-tax loss in 2018.
By April of 2019, the retail giant entered administration and delisted from the stock market.
It undertook a major restructuring, designed to restore it to its former glory, but now appears likely to disappear for good after Christmas, after entering liquidation.
Now, Debenhams is to start a liquidation process after JD Sports confirmed it had pulled out of a possible rescue deal, putting 12,000 workers at risk.
The 242-year-old department store chain said its administrators have ‘regretfully’ decided to start winding down operations while continuing to seek offers ‘for all or parts of the business’.
Michelle Mone opens the Ultimo lingerie brand’s first concession at Debenhams in Liverpool in 2015
A Debenhams fashion campaign in 2010 featuring Shannon Murray who had been using a wheelchair since her teens
Lingerie designer Aliza Reger (centre) with models to launch the new lingerie department in the Oxford Street store in 2013
Debenhams chief executive Belinda Earl and finance director Matthew Roberts at their store in London’s Oxford Street in 2002 ahead of annual results which saw the company’s profits rise to £153.6million from the previous year’s £146.1million
A person walks past a boarded up Debenhams on Oxford Street on April 16 during the first coronavirus lockdown of the year
It is understood that the collapse of rescue talks were partly linked to the administration of Arcadia Group, which is the biggest operator of concessions in Debenhams stores.
Debenhams said it will continue to trade through its 124 UK stores and online to clear its current and contracted stocks.
‘On conclusion of this process, if no alternative offers have been received, the UK operations will close,’ the company said in statement.
Debenhams has already axed 6,500 jobs across its operation due to heavy cost-cutting after it entered administration for the second time in 12 months. Arcadia tumbled into insolvency on Monday evening, casting a shadow over its own 13,000 workers and 444 stores.