What does the future hold for Worthing’s Debenhams store?

Debenhams in South Street, Worthing SUS-181025-112420001
Debenhams in South Street, Worthing SUS-181025-112420001

The possible closure of a major store in Worthing town centre could present opportunities for new retailers.

It was announced this morning (October 25) that Debenhams, which has a store in Worthing’s South Street, would be closing up to 50 stores over the next ‘three to five years’.

A list of store closures has yet to be announced and town centre manager Sharon Clarke said during a recent visit the chain’s chief executive, Sergio Bucher, said the Worthing store was performing well.

Find more on the planned closures here: Debenhams announces 50 store closures and puts 4,000 jobs at risk

As one of the town’s largest stores in terms of floorspace, the potential void left by the retail giant could prove tempting to other large retailers, such as the often mooted Primark.

Mrs Clarke said the prospect of a new store depended on conditions at the time.

“It depends whether Primark is looking to expand at the moment,” she said.

“People need to realise that a lot of retailers are not looking to open new stores. It is very costly having a town centre store.”

Mrs Clarke said high street retailers are forced to pay business rates ten times those of their online counterparts, so opening new shops was ‘unviable’ for many companies.

The Debenhams store in South Street has long been heralded as one of the few spaces large enough to house a Primark, which Mrs Clarke has said in the past would require at least 25,000sq ft of space.

Debenhams has a footprint of 54,461sq ft, she said.

Other locations include the old BHS store in Montague Street, now filled by Poundland, and the Beales store in South Street.

Read more on the likelihood of Worthing’s Debenhams closing here: Future of Worthing’s Debenhams uncertain as retail giant announces store closures

Despite the uncertainty, Mrs Clarke said the town management is doing everything it can to attract businesses to the area and around £6 million of investment was planned over the next few years from Worthing Borough Council and West Sussex County Council.

She pointed to the planned pedestrianisation of Portland Road, which she said would hopefully be completed by 2020, and work being done to link South Street to the seafront.

“We really want to build a leisure experience,” she said.

“Town centres are about social shopping, rather than commodities. People come for the experience.”

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