Debenhams in Southsea has closed for the last time - here's how it looked inside at the end

FOR decades, customers say, its high street appeal was unrivalled – with four floors of stock to peruse for hours at a time.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 2:41 pm
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 12:52 pm

But today, Southsea’s department store Debenhams saw its life come to an end as it shut its (many) doors for good.

Windows straddling Palmerston Road, Osborne Road and Portland Road, once enticing displays – and an attraction for shoppers seeking Christmas inspiration – were wallpapered with closing down signs throughout the day.

Boasting cuts of 60, 70 and 80 per cent off, they were effective at drawing in a final day of customers, but their garish colours hid the reality of the sobering redundancies Monday morning will bring.

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Pictures from inside the Southsea branch of Debenhams on its last day of trading - January 19, 2020 Picture: Byron Melton

Among the slashed-price stock inside was kitchenware and clothing. The two would have traditionally been displayed storeys apart but today, on closing day, they struggled to fill even a third of the ground floor.

It was the only section of the store open to customers, with upper floors, and the toilets, closed.

Shelving once thick with luxury menswear laid bare and fixtures and fittings – even wet floor signs and mop buckets – were up for grabs for £1. Handfuls were seen being carted down Palmerston Road.

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Pictures from inside the Southsea branch of Debenhams on its last day of trading - January 19, 2020 Picture: Byron Melton

Outside, passers-by took farewell pictures. One, who asked to remain anonymous, shared memories of the store going back 40 years – hailing its closure as the death knell of a shop ‘always there for the everyman’.

‘For me this feels like the end of an era,' the 50-year-old said.

'You could buy anything in here because you always knew there would be a choice.

‘I remember seeing Santa Claus here as a child and it was a big thing – it was something you could see and feel – but now everything is moving online it just won't be the same.

Pictures from inside the Southsea branch of Debenhams on its last day of trading - January 19, 2020 Picture: Byron Melton

‘I really feel for the staff and I hope they find new jobs quickly. I never had a bad customer experience here.’

The departure of Debenhams brings a sad symmetry to Southsea's high street, mirroring the adjacent closure of Knight and Lee in July.

Staff in the former are contractually obliged not to share their thoughts on the closure with the press, but customers were not shy as they filtered out before the store closed just after 3.30pm.

Pictures from inside the Southsea branch of Debenhams on its last day of trading - January 19, 2020. Picture: Byron Melton

Jackie Beckley, 59, said Debenhams was her go-to shop in Southsea.

'My mum used to bring me in and it's so sad to see it go because over the years I've done a lot of shopping here,' she said.

'Now Knight and Lee has gone as well, I feel like there's nowhere to go. It's like a ghost town and I can only see it getting worse.'

She added: 'It must be a really sad day for the staff. It's people's lives that are being affected here.'

With plans in place to take Knight and Lee's premises forward, shoppers now wait to learn of Debenhams' future.

As reported, proposals for a Sherlock Holmes museum at the building have previously been mooted.

Pictures from inside the Southsea branch of Debenhams on its last day of trading - January 19, 2020. Picture: Byron Melton
Debenhams in Southsea. Picture Ian Hargreaves (170058-1)
Pictures from inside the Southsea branch of Debenhams on its last day of trading - January 19, 2020 Picture: Byron Melton