Southsea: Debenhams closure could ‘lead to something better’

News that Debenhams will close its store in Southsea in 2020 has been greeted with optimism by Portsmouth Property Association.

The demise of the store, only weeks after it was announced the neighbouring Knight & Lee department store was also to close, is a sign of the shift to online shopping but the changes could lead to an exciting future for the Palmerston Road precinct.

Chairman of the Portsmouth Property Association (PPA), Chris Green, who was elected in March this year, said it was a shame that such a long-established store was closing.

“As a child, I can remember queuing on the stairs waiting to see Father Christmas and to hear such a well-established business is closing is sad.

“It is a sign of the times and we need to come to terms with the way people shop nowadays which is increasingly online,” he said.

While Tom Holloway, former Portsmouth Property Association chairman, agreed it was disappointing to see an old stalwart of the high street depart, he was optimistic the change may herald something even better for Southsea.

“Southsea is increasingly being seen as a cool and quirky place and the departure of Debenhams gives it the opportunity to keep developing in this direction,’ he said.

The Knight & Lee store, which will close in July, has been bought by developer THAT group and it plans to regenerate the store with a mix of uses including shared workspace and community hub.

“Southsea is becoming more like Brighton with an independent and creative heartbeat. The plans for Knight & Lee will help kickstart the regeneration and Debenhams will follow. It is time to re-invent Southsea,” said Holloway.

Property experts agree there has never been a tougher time for the high street. Capital values have fallen by 8.7% in recent times caused not only by yield expansion but also a drop in rental values.

A director at independent chartered surveyors and commercial and industrial property consultants Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell in Portsmouth, Holloway was only the third person in over half a century to hold the chairmanship for back-to-back years.