Speculation mounts over future of city's Debenhams store

Debenhams in Orford Place, Norwich closed on May 15 2020 after more than 50 years in business

Debenhams in Orford Place, Norwich closed on May 15, 2020, after more than 50 years in business - Credit: Maya Derrick

Lights flickering on inside the former Debenhams store has prompted speculation about when a new tenant might be moving in. 

The Red Lion Street shop - which boasts more than 100,000 sq ft of floor space - closed its doors in Norwich on May 15, after Debenhams went into administration in 2019.

Debenhams has been one of the biggest name high street casualties of the pandemic. 

Debenhams has been one of the biggest name high street casualties of the pandemic. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Agents London-based GCW, which is marketing the building on behalf of its Irish owner, sold the building last summer. 

However it did not respond to comment when approached about who the six-storey building's new owner is. 

Debenhams in Orford Place, Norwich closed on May 15 2020 after more than 50 years in business

Debenhams in Orford Place, Norwich closed on May 15 2020 after more than 50 years in business - Credit: Maya Derrick

Guy Gowing, managing partner at Norfolk-based property services firm Arnolds Keys, said any movement of the huge building was a sign that "the high street is fighting back".

He added that he has high hopes for a variety of businesses to prosper in the space.

He said: "Although I'm not aware of who is moving into the old Debenhams, with it's position in the heart of the city centre, it will find another occupier.

Most Read

"There's rumours about who might also be moving into Topshop so it seems to me that things are on the move."

Guy Gowing, managing partner at Norfolk-based property services firm Arnolds Keys

Guy Gowing, managing partner at Norfolk-based property services firm Arnolds Keys - Credit: Arnold Keys

It comes after Tesco Metro in Guildhall Hill confirmed it would be moving into the former Laura Ashley store. 

Mr Gowing continued: "I think it'll be broken up into smaller lots with different use on the upper floors.

"Ground, lower ground and the first floor will probably stay as retail or leisure, and the top floors will be some form of residential or short-term hotel or apartments.

"The British people are very strong-willed with shopping, it's a national past time. It'll take a lot to knock that off its perch."

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) welcomed any new lease of life being breathed into the empty building.

Stefan Gurney, chief executive of Norwich Business Improvement District. Pic: Nick Butcher.

Stefan Gurney, chief executive of Norwich Business Improvement District. Pic: Nick Butcher. - Credit: Nick Butcher

"Our aspiration stays the same, that it would be not solely turned into residential," he said.

"We don't know what their proposals are yet, but we would still want to see a mixed-use development on the site."