South west London residents today gave their backing to the struggling retailer Debenhams but seemed divided over the best way forward for the chain.
This part of the capital is home to six branches of Debenhams which, alongside Gourmet Burger Kitchen, is one of the many high street names in the area to recently announce restructuring.
Debenhams is preparing to close 50 of its stores nationwide with up to 4,000 jobs at risks as it faces the duel challenge of high business rates and online competition.
John Gordon, 73, of Worple Road said “I’m very sorry, I think it’s a great store. Been around since before I was a kid.”
Other residents gave their concerns about the impact the rise of online retail is having on the high street and how department stores need to adapt to survive.
Roger Theholm, 61 of Wimbledon said: “It needs to be revamped like Eyls [an independent Wimbledon department store] to become a mini-Selfridges and explore franchise names. There’s nothing especially wrong with it, but it would go due to the shift online. All of us like shopping.”
Lynn Elwood, 61, however said: “It’s a brilliant shop, the staff are polite and it has reasonable prices. We need to reduce rentals and don’t drive to a higher range.”
In his budget on Monday, Chancellor Philip Hammond is facing calls to both reduce business rates and impose a controversial tax for online retailers to help the retail sector.
Supporters say this will create a more equal operating environment for traditional and online retailers, but critics warn it will increase prices for consumers and do little to help the high street.
There was a consensus today that Debenhams would be missed in Wimbledon if the branch were to close.
Georgina Furze, 31 from Sutton said: “It’s been around a long time.”
Debenhams has not yet announced which stores it will close and when, or how many jobs will be lost.