ONE of Southampton’s biggest department stores is undergoing a multi-million pound makeover, bringing 30 new jobs to the city.
The revamp of the city’s flagship Debenhams store in Queens Way store comes as another boost to traders in the East Street area.
Property firm Arcadian Estates announced earlier this month that the struggling East Street shopping centre will be bulldozed and replaced with a giant Morrisons that will create 400 jobs.
The Debenhams revamp will see all departments undergo a complete modernisation by September.
The works also confirm Debenhams’ commitment to the store – its fourth largest by trading area – after rumours it was planning to quit the building.
Previous plans that would have seen it demolished and replaced by a residential tower overlooking Hoglands and Houndwell parks have been scrapped.
Debenhams said the works, which started this week, will see the cosmetics department expanding with new brands being introduced to rival WestQuay shopping centre’s anchor John Lewis store.
Menswear will be moved to the first floor creating a “destination”
for male shoppers The women’s department will then be spread over two floors – the ground and lower ground.
Homeware and the children’s department will take up the second floor.
The existing restaurant will be ripped out to be replaced with a new 180-seater full service restaurant and dining area with park side views.
Store manager John Given said: “There’s a real buzz among colleagues about the changes taking place in store and we’re confident customers are going to love the new and improved shopping experience.
“We’re lucky to have a fantastic history with our building, as Edwin Jones were first here in the mid 1800s, then we were rebuilt in the 1950s after damage in the war. Since the building officially became Debenhams in the 1970s, it’s only right to bestow it with its fair share of TLC every few years.”
City centre manager Ian Welland said: “I think it will be brilliant for the store and excellent for the general story of that part of the city centre.
“In due course it’s almost certain we will see an uplift in footfall down that way when Morrisons comes. And Debenhams has always had a loyal following which drives people into the city centre.”
The East Street Shopping Centre, just minutes from Southampton High Street, was originally built during the 1970s.
Once popular it has dwindled in recent years until it contained just a couple of businesses as many retailers opted for newer malls such as the Marlands and now WestQuay.
The new three-storey building, which will house Morrisons, will also restore a pedestrian link from St Mary’s to the retail centre.