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Memo to Debenhams: don’t remind your customers they are middle aged

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My branch of Debenhams, in Wimbledon, south London, is one of 22 branches set to close next year, with more to follow, putting an estimated 1,200 jobs at risk.

How horrible, particularly for the workers. Losing our Debenhams – huge, with three floors – will leave the shopping centre looking hollowed out. Sadly, I saw it coming. Just before Christmas, I was berating myself for getting to the store so late, dreading the festive crowds. I needn’t have worried – two days before the big day and it was deserted, like a scene in a post-apocalyptic disaster movie, where 99% of humanity has perished and survivors break into shops to steal provisions. I half-expected to see a zombie lurch towards me through the rails of discount fleeces. If Debenhams were a human being, it would have been my cue to scream for the defibrillator.

While Debenhams has suffered its fair share of internal problems, the high street is dying generally, as online convenience leads to real-life closures. We all know about ghost towns – welcome, now, to ghost stores, the ones we all helped create. When a big name goes in a shopping area, smaller ones soon follow, in the manner of retail dominoes. In such cases, there are usually suggestions about opening nail bars, hair salons, cafes etc, but how many of these do people need? And how would such new ventures affect local businesses already offering these services?

Sadly, there’s another layer to this. Debenhams stores are strong in some areas (good cosmetic/perfume sections), but in others the ambience is so dated that it reminds target shoppers of the thing they want to forget – that they’re old and past it. While trendy young types wouldn’t frequent........

© The Guardian