THE potential loss of Debenhams would be a "hammer blow" to Newport city centre, an expert has warned.

Newport is set to lose its Debenhams store - if no new buyer can be found - as the company announced it has begun the liquidation process.

The loss of the Friars Walk store would be "very disappointing news" for Newport, according to Haydn Thomas, of Hutchings and Thomas Chartered Surveryors.

Mr Thomas said: “It is obviously not good news.

“If Debenhams in Newport potentially closed it would leave another large hole in the high street which has to be filled, and is another hammer blow for the city centre.

“After the high of Friars Walk being created, which we thought would be the beacon of hope for a new Newport, it is very disappointing news.

“It is a major blow for Newport, and another issue is where do you find someone who would be willing to take on the space?”

It was thought the long term future of the store had been secured after a business rates deferral was granted earlier this year.

During the first coronavirus lockdown earlier this year the Welsh Government launched a scheme available offering business rates relief to companies - but it was not available to companies with a rateable value of more than £500,000 - meaning the city's Debenhams branch was not eligible.

The company's chairman Mark Gifford had said its Welsh stores would not re-open unless the cap - which was not in place in England - was scrapped, but the Welsh Government refused to do so.

The Newport store has a rateable value of £510,000. However, following a campaign spearheaded by the Argus, the council agreed to defer the company's rates. It is unclear how today's news will affect this deal.


Newport City Council leader, Cllr Jane Mudd, said her thoughts were with the staff and their families.

Cllr Mudd said: While this is incredibly sad for Newport and the city centre, it must be a devastating blow for those at risk of losing their jobs.

“Obviously, we have been aware of the challenges being faced by Debenhams and other high street retailers, particularly this year, and we have been doing everything we can to help all businesses through grants and rate relief.

“Debenhams did not qualify for the Welsh Government retail, leisure and hospitality rate relief when it was introduced earlier this year. We recognised the additional burden this placed on the company and agreed to defer the non-domestic rates for the rest of this financial year while a rates review is pending.

“We still hope Debenhams can be saved as we know that it is valued by many shoppers and it is a key anchor store in Friars Walk and the city centre,

“It is too early to predict what will happen but town and city centres across Wales and the UK have been impacted by changing shopping habits and the pandemic. Newport is not unique in these circumstances but we will continue to work alongside all partners to support the city centre.

“For some years, our vision for the city centre has been to create a more diverse mix of uses and when Friars Walk opened just over five years ago, it was one element of our vision,

“Millions of pounds have already been invested through schemes to create housing, offices and other uses, sometimes bringing neglected and vacant properties and spaces back into use.

“We believe Newport is still well placed to take advantage of investment opportunities, and the 2018 city centre masterplan supports the careful coordination of developments to ensure the best possible benefit to the city.

“We will be looking at the current offer and our plans for the future with the aim of creating a city fit for the future.”