THE lights are on, but nobody’s home.

That certainly seems to be the case inside the former Debenhams store in Newport city centre.

After the store closed its doors to customers for the final time in May, the shutters were lowered, and the windows covered up.

Months later, some of the window coverings were removed, and it is possible to once again take a look inside the flagship store, which opened as the crown jewel of the Friars Walk shopping centre development in 2015.

And inside, it is something of an eerie sight.

A little over five months since the store closed – and the inside looks virtually untouched since those final days of trading.

Clothes racks and railings are still seen dotted around the otherwise empty shop floor – though the lack of clothes on these is the most obvious sign that it is not business as usual.

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It is a little surprising that after closing, while stock was taken away, the premises wasn’t otherwise cleared out.

There are also clues as to the state of the high street at the time that Debenhams pivoted to an online-only retailer, too.

Just inside the entrance off Upper Dock Street, partially obscured by shutters, there, clearly visible, are signs stressing some of the strictest covid restrictions for shoppers – another reminder of how different shopping experiences were, even just a matter of months ago.

South Wales Argus: A look inside the empty Debenhams store in NewportA look inside the empty Debenhams store in Newport

Deeper in the store, there is a clear glow being given off from displays, which are advertising products no longer being sold in-store.

In any other store, it might prompt a passing comment about energy use when closed for business, but in the vast and empty department store, there is something slightly unsettling about it.

For now, the huge shop – one of the biggest in Newport in terms of floor space, remains empty.

But, in Debenhams stores elsewhere in the UK, there is cause for some hope that it might eventually be brought back into use.

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Debenhams in Newport – what happens next?

Since the closure of Debenhams in Newport in early May, there has been little to no talk of anything moving into the Friars Walk site.

Coming out of a pandemic, the high street is in a fairly weak position as it is, and given the size and location of the store, it is estimated that deep pockets would be needed to take on the unit.

That isn’t a problem unique to Newport, it has to be said.

South Wales Argus: Another look inside the storeAnother look inside the store

Debenhams closed all of their high street stores over the space of a couple of months, leaving vast, empty spaces in cities up and down the country.

It remains the case inside the St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff, The Quadrant in Swansea, and in towns and cities across the border in England.

But, in England, there is some cause for optimism, as some Debenhams stores are being brought back into use – albeit slowly.

In Birmingham for example, it has been confirmed that Marks & Spencer will be taking up half of what was one of two anchor stores inside the Bullring shopping centre, with the move expected in late 2022 or early 2023.

This isn’t without problems of its own, as the existing Marks & Spencer store will become empty, but, by breaking the huge store into smaller stores, it increases the chances of filling the space, in a time when large department stores simply aren’t in fashion.

It is a similar story in Coventry, where the three-storey store has been carved up into smaller units.

Here, the shopping centre has announced £2 million plans to turn empty space into a bowling alley, indoor adventure golf course, and new bars and restaurants.

While Newport already has its bowling alley, and the city centre is not short of restaurants, it does show that there could be creative solutions for the Debenhams problem that the city currently has.

But in the meantime, the shop sits empty, with lights on, but nobody home.