There was some good news for the town today as Pizza Express announced its Hastings store was safe.
But with the future of Debenhams and its imposing town centre building hanging in the balance the attitudes of local people towards the chain’s Robertson Street store vary widely.
In response to our story on Sunday explaining that the struggling company had brought in advisers that specialise in closing a business down Frances Stanley-McKay wrote: “If our Debenhams closes it will be a terrible loss for Hastings, not to mention another huge high street shop standing empty. Tragedy for the employees also . I just hope that a solution is found before it happens.”
While Carole West wrote: “Please stop this buying on line. We won’t have any shops soon and a dead town centre.”
Gary Thomas believes Debenhams has not moved with the times: “They tend to rent old buildings… Same thing in Eastbourne the site is now empty and it looks a mess there. Same is going to happen here by the looks of things. Another eyesore in the town centre.”
Martine Carruthers reckons its closure has. “…been coming for a while…”.
Meanwhile Hastings Borough Councillor Judy Rogers whose Castle Ward includes the Debenhams site told Hastings In Focus: “It is really sad news that one of the largest stores in our town centre looks as if it is under threat and I do hope that the business can be saved.
“My thoughts are with the staff who, along with all the worries and uncertainties around currently, have this added pressure and I know that the council, councillors and unions will work to achieve the best possible outcome for them all.
“In terms of the building, should worst case happen, hopefully a developer will recognise its potential and take it on as it would make a fantastic place to live, work or socialise being right in the middle of the town centre.
“The borough council will be supportive of anything that will improve our town and it comes at a time when the Town Board is looking at grants to improve the whole area.”
John Bownas, the town centre manager said: “”We sincerely hope that Debennhams’ current strategy saves the chain and allows the Hastings store to continue trading.”
East Sussex County Councillor Godfrey Daniels added: “The people of Hastings have shopped loyally at Debenhams for so many years. I hope Debenhams can repay that loyalty by being a key player in the regeneration of Hastings.”
At the weekend Debenhams was big news in the national newspapers as news broke that the prospect of Debenhams disappearing from high streets across the UK had become a real fear. Debenhams owners, it was revealed, had appointed advisers, Hilco, who specialise in company liquidations and who have in the past wound up the business activities of high-profile retail businesses including BHS, Woolworths and electronics specialist Maplin.
Hilco has been brought in by the department store’s bosses to draw up contingency plans for a possible liquidation. Debenhams has been in administration – a legal move to protect it from its creditors – since April and recently announced it was looking for a buyer in a deal that would need to be concluded by September – now it seems time might be running out for the company founded in 1813 and for its 14,00 staff.
Another national chain facing financial woes is Pizza Express, the company announcing that it would close around 70 branches and shed 1,100 jobs.
This morning the company published a list of branches that were to shut and Hastings was NOT on that list.