Debenhams Altrincham
The retailer's Altrincham store. Image from Google.

Altrincham and Southport among Debenhams closures

The troubled retailer has announced a restructuring plan that will see 22 stores close next year, including shops in the North West in Altrincham and Southport.

Setting out the terms of its Company Voluntary Arrangement, Debenhams also warned further store closures are expected “in due course” with the final number “dependent on future trading performance”. Around 1,200 staff work in the 22 stores across the country and the retailer said it would look to redeploy “as many as possible”.

All the impacted stores will remain open throughout 2019, including through Christmas trading; a firm date for their closure has not yet been set. The Altrincham store is part of the wider Stamford Quarter development, while Southport’s store is on Lord Street.

Debenhams has already confirmed the closure of one its major warehouses and added its three other facilities “could be consolidated further”.

Terry Duddy, executive chairman of Debenhams, said: “The issues facing the UK high street are very well known. 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.”

Earlier this month, lenders took control of the company in a move which saw investors’ shareholdings wiped out. The retailer had been courted by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, who made several attempts to buy the company, but instead a £200m rescue package was agreed.

In the North West, the retailer has shops in Manchester and Liverpool, along with Altrincham, Chester, Warrington, Stockport, Oldham, Bolton, Bury, Preston, Blackpool, Blackburn, Southport, Wigan, Carlisle and Workington. Debenhams also has an outlet at Cheshire Oaks and a North Wales estate encompassing Wrexham, Llandudno and Bangor.

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No surprise there, both towns are a shadow of them former selves

By Oh well

Southport needs a robust strategy for diversification. Anticipate the retail trends and accept the town must change. Lord Street is a wonderful asset. Napoleon III lived in Southport before he appointed Hauseman in Paris. Bring more residentials to upper levels and build on the happening vibe at the northern end where Debenhams is situated.
Chapel Street needs rethinking too: the empty former BHS… – a bold strategy to redevelop these buildings is needed. Bring more people to live right in the centre.
And Bootle! Do the two towns together!! New canal-side restaurants are long overdue. Just do it!
Forget the screaming of small minded people about taxpayers money. It will pay big dividends in the end.

By Roscoe

Roscoe, Its a sad and barely disguised truth that Sefton’s labour majority are simply not interested in supporting Southport because they have no votes there. Happy to drain it of taxes though….

By Albert Pierpoint

Yes, Albert, the politicians may be lacking. But this narrative about draining it is not helpful either. Southport suffers from the ‘resort syndrome’. You get it all over the country. Southport is lucky, it could transform itself like Brighton, but this won’t be achieved by blaming everything on others.

By Roscoe.

Roscoe, I’m only repeating what the civil servants in Sefton openly admit. Let’s hope I’m proved wrong one day…

By Albert Pierpoint

Most boroughs have poorer areas and it’s natural and just that those with more pay a bit more. Formby, Maghull, Hightown and parts of Crosby are all better off than parts of Southport. If Southport were in West Lancs would people say it subsidises Skelmersdale? It’s not big enough to stand alone, it has to link to its neighbours. We need to focus on what’s right for the regeneration of Southport not whether the people get a pound back for every pound they put in. With all the old people in Southport they probably do one way or another but that’s not the issue.

By Roscoe

I would agree with much of what ‘Roscoe’ says; ‘he’ is very knowledgeable on civic history. I wouldn’t say that Lord Street is wonderful. It’s looking tired in parts and has for a while; and each end is gradually contracting. Unfortunately Southport is in Sefton; a Council that spectacularly lacks imagination. Like with Crosby and Bootle they will wait until it’s too late……and still not do anything. Nothing to do with the politicians, its the senior council staff that are lacking. Southport is also far too small to go UDC. A few ‘snobs’ hate that they are in the Liverpool City Region and wanted to come out into West Lancs, where many want West Lancs to be part of the LCR. When the LCR said it would need to review rail zone subsidies for travel to Southport if they came out of the LCR, they appear to have dropped this ludicrous idea of bailing out of the LCR as Southport would die within a few years/months if they ever pulled out (38% of all Southport’s day visitors come from Liverpool). Not everyone plays golf, not everyone can afford the golf in the Southport area; but that’s all they appear to rely upon. There hasn’t been a shopping experience in Southport for many years and one wonders how long M&S will last (Darlington, Falkirk, Northampton and Stockton are all larger towns and have/are losing their M&S); Southport is not a destination anymore. Victorian seaside towns ‘finished’ years ago and are tacky. Southport needs a New Brighton type approach; one of very few seaside towns that has shown some comeback. Southport needs a Development Corporation. Relying upon SMBC is a mistake.

By Billy

I think if Southport is to reinvent itself, it will need to go down the leisure route, rather than shopping. I too have noticed that Lord Street is fraying at its ends.

The town has strengths, like the Atkinson, its Flower Show and golf, as well as the Vincent and a generally attractive urban grain, but its now at a crossroads. The area around the railway station is very tired. Introducing more residential in the town centre would also be a good move.

Altrincham has shown that a town can reinvent itself, though the town has new money as well as old, whilst most of Southport’s new money is in Formby.

I think splitting Southport – and Formby – off Sefton, and adding these into a reconstituted unitary West Lancashire has much to recommence it. After all, health is already arranged this way (Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust). The new West Lancs can then collaborate with the Liverpool and Merseyside region.

By SW

Many people in Southport blame the towns downfall on its integration into Liverpool

By Rita

Many people on here say Southport is responsible for dragging Bootle down?

By Bottle Bobby

The Merseyside address does Southport no favours. People not knowing the area will instantly couple it with Liverpool. I suppose the same could be said for Altrincham which is allowed to keep its Cheshire address bizarrely, even though it is much more part of Manchester, than Southport is part of Liverpool. Southport is a pretty town in parts but mind-blowingly boring. It doesn’t even have the kudos of being a dump like Blackpool.

By Elephant

Many people in Southport blame the towns downfall on its integration into Liverpool;
Yes they do Rita, but without Liverpool, Southport is finished. Also SWs idea of Southport + West Lancs + Formby wont work. West Lancs already has partnership links with the LCR; and Formby would be the beneficiary if Southport bails out; all those day trippers will stop at Formby, because they wont pay the extra to get to Southport (plus there are lots of other golf courses before you get to Hillside); and the S+O NHS Trust doesnt work anywhere near as well as it needs too; Adult services in Southport, Children in Ormskirk??? I am not knocking Southport, its no Shangri-la; it urgently needs help, but has done so for more than 30 years. Sefton Council is the problem and not Bootle v Southport.

By Billy

Elephant – it’s not a case of Alty being ‘allowed’ to keep it’s Cheshire address, the Royal Mail doesn’t require a county in the address, so it’s down to whatever people write on the envelope. All they really need to deliver is the number and the postcode.

By Postman Pat

Re. Elephant and Postman Pat above – my understanding is that both of you are correct: to clarify, the below comes from the Wikipedia page on ‘Greater Manchester’:

Unlike the other counties created by the Act, Greater Manchester was never adopted as a postal county by the Royal Mail. A review in 1973 noted that “Greater Manchester” would be unlikely to be adopted because of confusion with the Manchester post town. The component areas of Greater Manchester therefore retained their pre-1974 postal counties until 1996, when [postal] counties were abolished.

By John

Elephant..’..pretty town’; best line of the month! You havent been there for some time perhaps…and its postal area is Preston. All its subsidies, Flower Show, Pier, boating lake, etc etc all come because its in the LCR; sad town needs help quickly.
Neither have I ever considered Altrinham to be in Manchester; Gtr Manchester perhaps with a Warrington postal area??????????

By Billy

You only have to look at the smaller towns in the UK that don’t have close connections with a big city to see they have a bleak future. A strong Liverpool and Manchester is a huge asset for their hinterlands. When you compare the Northwest to other regions, its really lucky to have these twin anchors that work with each other not against each other.

By Rich X

Formby’s history is closely tied to Liverpool and Sefton Parish. The people are mostly very proud if their Liverpool roots. Formby can therefore not be hived off to West Lancs (with Southport) as one commentator suggests. And neither will Southport I would suggest.
I concur with those who put the onus on Sefton to get its act together and come up with bold strategies for Southport, Bootle and Crosby/Waterloo.
The Merseyside tag, by the way, (@Elephant) is dying for the city’s inner Boroughs. It’s Liverpool now and we’re becoming proud of it well beyond the City’s boundaries.

By Roscoe

Billy. Altrincham is much more akin to Manchester than the old mill towns to the North of the city. It is a posh Manchester suburb. All that side of Manchester blends seamlessly into the city in the same way that North London blends into the West End. Southport has a totally different identity to Liverpool.It should have been kept in Lancashire. Ormskirk was, and a town with much more of an affinity with Liverpool Skelmersdale, was too.

By Elephant

Well you might be right about Southport traditionally Elephant. But, cheap property prices have very much changed the dynamics. A majority in ‘old’ Southport probably have Liverpool origins now. Ainsdale and Birkdale are very ‘affordable’ much more so than Formby and Crosby and there’s been a gradual move north for the past few decades. Lots of people move from less desirable parts of Liverpool’s northern suburbs every week. The character is very mixed now.

By Roscoe

Ormskirk was kept in Lancashire by the way more because of its size and its market town status. Unlike the mill towns around Manchester it just wasn’t considered big enough to go ‘met’ at the time. As with Southport, but more so, Ormskirk is now an outer town of the Liverpool area. It functions as ‘district’ centre for Maghull, Lydiate, and Aughton, as well as providing services to Skelmersdale and Burscough of course. It’s becoming a leisure destination for the wider area and with Edge Hill University, (founded in Edge Hill, Liverpool), and good Merseyrail connections, it is one of the bright spots on the northern edge of the Liverpool conurbation.

By Roscoe

The Merseyrail system in fact made most of the suburbs in Liverpool and beyond, long before other cities had newer connections. Southport, Wirral and other parts benefitted from the railway and it’s easy access into Central Liverpool. Just as in the 17/18th centuries the merchants of Liverpool had their own ferry services to many parts of the Wirral for commuting, the private railways for Liverpool, later to become public enabled the development of these towns to flourish, Liverpool has a natural hinterland it was only stymied by political interference, by national government when they thought it would become to powerful and big.

By Dickie Sam

The links between all the old towns and villages in the ‘West Derby Hundred’ (the whole of South West Lancashire) go back a very long way and they’re still very, very strong. The very powerful development of much of the hundred as the city of Liverpool – a global trading city – has obscured to an extent how strong these links are, but they are still there, and I would say are getting stronger again and becoming ever more relevant as Liverpool grows. The success of the whole city region will be the greater the more we stick together.

By Roscoe

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