Dark week for the high street as Debenhams, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton disappear forever

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It should have been an extremely positive week for UK retail and the high street.

After four long weeks of nationwide lockdown and an eventful year of forced closures and restrictions, the shutters were finally reinstated on Wednesday.

December 2 was the day non-essential retailers were allowed to start welcoming return shoppers across all levels of restrictions.

With Greater Manchester placed directly at Level 3, the only other businesses allowed to reopen were hairdressers and gyms – it’s still radio silence for pubs, restaurants, theaters and museums.

But alongside the constant stream of shoppers returning to start their Christmas shopping, there was grim financial news.

Debenhams sale has closed
(Image: Getty Images)

Two of the best-known and oldest names in retail have both announced a fall in administration – or worse, a liquidation.

Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group – which is behind Topshop, Evans, Burton and Miss Selfridge – made headlines this week.

The shutters are up at Debenhams this week – but how many more days will it take?
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

This appears to be the end of the road for the Debenhams department store, whose struggles have been well documented in recent years.

On Wednesday, the huge building that stands between the main shopping strip of Market Street and Piccadilly Gardens was covered in red sales stickers.

Prices have been halved in some departments, neat rows of discounted toys, dresses, dishes and makeup ready to go.

Debenhams’ website saw unprecedented levels of traffic when it announced its fire sale, but there was no such rush in the downtown physical store, nor in Bury.

Debenhams at Bury Rock
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Foot traffic to the stores was about the same as for any other weekday in December – with staff said they thought “it would be so busy it would be like a scene from Lord of the Rings.”

Meanwhile, at Arcadia brands, buyers were also skinny in the field this week.

Prices in Topshop were slashed by 20% store-wide, but that wasn’t enough to draw crowds – although things could get better this weekend.

The Arndale was much calmer than many predicted
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Around the corner in the Arndale is a wall of Arcadia storefronts – Miss Selfridge, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Evans all line up in a row and cross each other inside.

On opening day the shelves were clean and organized, the staff were as friendly as ever (but declined to comment on the group’s downfall in administration) and shoppers calm in their browsing.

Buyers are heading to Topshop in Denton
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

It’s not quite the frenzy that Black Friday and Boxing Day sales have made us all expect.

It remains to be seen whether Arcadia will be pulled out of the jaws of the definitive shutdown, with around 444 stores and 13,000 jobs online.

Its fate is now in the hands of Deloitte administrators, who seek to sell the brands in separate rescue packages.

Debenhams goes into liquidation
(Image: Getty Images)

Many were surprised to see such big names face such a bleak future.

We asked our readers to share their fondest memories of the shops – here’s what you had to say.

Kevin Smith commented: “Before the lockdown etc we used to meet up and go for a family breakfast every Saturday in Debenhams, Manchester.

“A chance to meet up with family, good breakfast, very friendly staff. I will miss it. ”

Buyers of face masks pass Debenhams in the town center
(Image: Daily Mirror / Andy Stenning)

Jeff Billington said: “I have always had a soft spot for Debenhams. You have the experience of walking around a fancy department store like Selfridges or John Lewis, but if I saw something I liked it wouldn’t be cheap but affordable if I really wanted to. Like you see a shirt and it’s £ 45 rather than £ 450. ”

Buyers leave in the rain
(Image: Daily Mirror / Andy Stenning)

Julie Reed recalls working at Debenhams and said: “I had a Saturday job at Debenhams when I was 16. I loved working there, the people were so nice. Forgive yourself that everyone has lost their job.

Hannah Burnley shared a similar memory, posting: “It’s so sad… my very first job was at Debenhams on the perfume and cosmetics counters when I was 16… I have fond memories of my weekend job. there, sad moments. ”

Glenys Williams added: “Loved shopping at Debenhams years ago, loved cardholder nights with great fragrance discounts!

“Not too much visited lately except when the sales are going – they’ve gone too far with designer brands and high prices.

Buyers line up outside Debenhams in 1975
(Image: Mirrorpix)

“It’s such a shame that this is happening, really for all the wonderful and helpful staff who are now going to be out of work. Good luck for the future guys. ”

Pauline Brown unfortunately lost her job at Debenhams. She wrote to us: “I worked at Debenhams for 22 years until she was fired the other month, sad and angry, made a lot of lifelong friends.

“We laughed so much together, cried together, watched our children / grandchildren grow up, all the events of life, it was a family, dancing and singing with the customers will be missed by regulars too. Such sad news.

(Image: Daily Mirror / Andy Stenning)

Jean Dyson added: “The towns will be finished once the Debenhams are gone, too bad. ”

Val Cummings said: “I don’t do a lot of shopping at Debenhams these days, but I liked it back then.

“I had a Saturday job in the Veranda Lounge at Debenhams in Manchester in the 1970s, we always had overtime during school holidays and we were earning more in tips than the daily salary (around £ 2.20 per day! ) ”

Regarding the possible closure of Topshop, Ellen MC said, “I think the staff are losing jobs there, especially so close to Christmas.

“I loved shopping in Top shop, got my last coat from there. Not all stores have a small section so it was great for me to be short.

“No, it wasn’t the cheapest shop on Main Street, but I was still wearing my coat 2 years after buying it. ”

Hayley Louise Bourne Ashworth said: “I worked at Topshop, / Topman down Market St 88-97 loved it. I was there when the bomb went off! ”

Helen Grochowina worked for Evans – she said, “Lingerie section at Evans – one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done. Topshop as a teenager. So many memories, so sad for the lost jobs. ”

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