Wakefield Trinity Walk Debenhams 'could be converted into cinema, bowling alley or music venue' if no other retailer takes on the space

Debenham at Trinity WalkDebenham at Trinity Walk
Debenham at Trinity Walk
Trinity Walk's flagship Debenhams could be converted into a leisure facility if no other retailer steps in, Wakefield Civic Society has suggested.

Society president Kevin Trickett said there was a risk the former department store could be another BHS on Kirkgate, which has stood empty long-term, unless a creative solution was found.

All Debenhams stores are set to close down with up to 12,000 jobs to go as brand is sold to Boohoo.

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Mr Trickett said: "This is terrible news for Wakefield. We waited for so many years to see a department store open in Wakefield and to expand the city’s retail offer so this news is a real blow and it will leave a big gap to fill at Trinity Walk. I feel desperately sorry for the people at the store who now look likely to lose their jobs.

"That this is happening is a product of the times we are in but is also a symptom of some underlying problems at Debenhams which has been struggling for some time. With more people now shopping on-line, a trend that has increased as a result of the Covid pandemic, and changing lifestyles generally, all retailers are having to re-evaluate their business models.

"This is not something peculiar to Wakefield, of course: it is a national problem.

"The question facing Trinity Walk is going to be what to do with the store. We already have a number of empty retail units in the city centre, including the former BHS store which looks very forlorn and has stood empty for far too long.

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"We have to hope that a new retailer might move into the Debenhams store in Trinity Walk but if the BHS example is anything to go by, this isn’t going to be an easy problem to solve. However, while retail is struggling at the moment, I think it’s far too soon to write it off altogether.

"If there is no retailer willing to take on the building, then it might be time to think about dividing the building into smaller units or repurposing it in some way for some new use.

"That might be something exclusively associated with leisure – such as a bowling alley, cinema, live music space and so on, or it could mean converting the building into a mixed-use facility, something that is part leisure and part retail but with smaller boutique shops, for example.

"Although it might be difficult at present to imagine what those future uses might be while we live in a world dominated by Covid lockdowns, a time will come when we are ready to emerge once again and people will be looking for opportunities to meet friends, to spend time together and maybe engage in some retail therapy."

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The new deal will see Debenhams products sold by Boohoo from early next year, allowing enough time for liquidators to continue closing the retailer's sites once they are allowed to reopen after lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Boohoo said: "The group intends to rebuild and relaunch the Debenhams platform, helping further the group's stated ambition to lead the fashion ecommerce market, and grow into new categories including beauty, sport and homeware."

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