Southsea Debenhams closure: Staff left in ‘floods of tears’ and hand in resignations at announcement meeting

STAFF at Debenhams in Southsea have revealed their 'shock’ and ‘sadness’ at the sudden announcement the store would be closing next year – with many left in floods of tears after learning their fate.

By Steve Deeks
Friday, 26th April 2019, 5:10 pm
Updated Friday, 26th April 2019, 5:13 pm
Debenhams, Palmerston Road, Southsea.        Picture: Chris Moorhouse              (110419-87)
Debenhams, Palmerston Road, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (110419-87)

The retail giant revealed the department store – once the ‘pride of Southsea’ – will be shutting its doors as part of the company’s decision to close 22 shops across the country, putting 1,500 jobs at risk. 

Employees at Debenhams in Palmerston Road were called into a hastily arranged meeting this morning to receive the announcement – leaving many in floods of tears and some even handing in their resignations on the spot.

While the closure of the store, in the heart of the once bustling retail hotspot, was at the centre of speculation it could follow the shock closure of Knight & Lee across the road, many staff were still left gobsmacked by the news.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

One member of staff, who has worked at the store for ‘many years’, said: ‘We knew it was something on the cards but there was still a lot of shock, especially as we thought they would close the Commercial Road store rather the Southsea store.

‘It’s really sad news for some people, not so bad for others who have been with the company for a long time and stand to get a better pay-off.

‘Some people handed their resignations in there and then. Others will be made redundant and some might be relocated.

‘It’s a sad day for Southsea and Debenhams. It used to be the pride of Southsea – better than Knight & Lee. It used to be a fantastic store. But Gunwharf and the Debenhams store in Commercial Road has killed it.’

Another employee said: ‘It came as a shock to me. I knew they were thinking of shutting down stores but I didn’t think it would be us especially as customers prefer our store to Commercial Road.

‘They will trade up to Christmas and then start winding things down in January. It will be one hell of a Christmas party.’

In a show of unity, workers were planning to drown their sorrows in the pub after work – with some not happy about how the announcement was handled after the store was opened having told staff.

‘They should have shut the shop for the day. Instead you’ve got girls who are really upset having to face customers who are asking questions. They should have done what Knight & Lee did and shut the shop,’ one employee said.

The group has announced a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which will see the affected shops continue trading until early 2020.

Chief executive of Debenhams, Terry Duddy said: ‘Debenhams has a clear strategy and a bright future, but in order for the business to prosper, we need to restructure the group's store portfolio and its balance sheet, which are not appropriate for today's much-changed retail environment.

‘Our priority is to save as many stores and as many jobs as we can, while making the business fit for the future.’