THE shelves are bare and the shop floor empty apart from dozens of mannequins.
But by this time next week the long-awaited new Debenhams in Fareham is expected to be packed with customers.
It had been expected to open two years ago, however a legal battle with Fareham Shopping Centre’s owners delayed it.
Now everything is running to plan.
The last few workers are busy finishing off the odd jobs while staff are waiting on delivery of the stock – with 65,000 items due to arrive in the coming days.
Store manager Andrew Birt said: ‘All the branding is in, all the fixtures are in – it’s really starting to come together now.
‘For the last few days I’ve been like a kid before Christmas.
‘All the stock still has to come in but we’ve got two articulated lorries a day arriving for the next few days now with all the stock.
‘We’re on a strict timetable.’
One innovation at the store is the introduction of five internet kiosks that will allow people to buy anything from the entire Debenhams range that isn’t in store.
The items can then be delivered free of charge or kept at the store for collection.
Mr Birt added: ‘It’s like bringing people into the biggest-ever Debenhams store.
‘It’s about combining that traditional department store service with the technology of the internet.
‘So far they’ve only been trialled in Manchester, where they also had five kiosks, but the store is about four or five times the size of ours.
‘If it’s successful here then they’ll be rolled out to other branches, but we’re really at the forefront of this.’
Debenhams had originally been intended to operate alongside two or three other shops in the centre’s extension.
But it has taken over the whole 25,000sq ft space across two floors.
And with the cladding finally removed from inside the shopping centre, the store front has been revealed.
Passing shoppers have been frequently taking advantage of view-holes inviting them to ‘Peek in here’.
Mr Birt added: ‘Since we took down the cladding people have been flocking to take a look.
‘They’re really interested to see what’s been hiding behind here for so long.’
As reported in The News, more than 1,500 people applied for the 50 jobs at the store earlier this year.
There will be a VIP preview evening next Wednesday to make sure everything is running smoothly before the shop opens to the public the next morning.