Debenhams: Ipswich council would ‘have to consider’ buying empty shop

A council said it would “have to consider” buying an empty Debenhams store to stop it falling out of use for a long period of time.

Online fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website but the £55m deal means the 118 High Street stores will shut.

Ipswich’s town-centre building, owned by a firm also in administration, is on the market for £5.5m.

The borough council’s leader said the price tag was a “sticking point”.

“It’s a big building, it’s an old building and it needs a lot of money spent on it and the administrators I think are going to have to lower their expectations of what they are going to receive for this building quite significantly to make a sale on it,” said David Ellesmere, Ipswich Borough Council’s Labour leader.

“Our ideal would be a commercial developer comes in and brings it back into use.”

He added: “This is a prominent building right in the heart of the town centre and we don’t want it to stay empty for an extended period of time.”

Therefore, the council “would have to consider purchasing it” although that would not be its “preferred outcome”, he said.

A closing-down sale began at all Debenhams stores in December, including the Ipswich branch, though they are currently shut because of the England-wide lockdown.

The Ipswich Debenhams sits within the four-storey Waterloo House building on Cornhill.

It was built in 1975 and Debenhams’ tenancy agreement started on 8 August 1977, according to the sale documents.

Commercial property adviser Avison Young, which has been appointed to sell the unit for the receivers, described the 182,008 sq ft (16,909 sq m) building as “versatile” and a “vital space”.

Elsewhere, the Arc in Bury St Edmunds is also set to lose its Debenhams store, which retail analyst Steven Moody said the company helped design.