We can see where this is going. Debenhams – in common with other big name stores – has for decades been regarded as the cornerstone, the anchor, of many a high street or destination shopping centre. The idea is that if there’s this big name, that folks will flock to, then that’s what creates the footfall for the other surrounding shops to thrive and survive.
After all, some little outlet selling candy floss isn’t going to do all that well if there’s no one walking by it. But if there are thousands of bored kids being dragged into the big name store by their parents then there’s a ready market passing the front door.
That’s the general business model and it’s one that has worked well for decades. The basic start to the planning of any shopping development is, OK, who is the anchor tenant? We get M&S in, Debenhams, hmmm, maybe BHS in times gone past, then we’re golden. We’ve filled the big corner lot, got the thousands of pedestrians a day we want, now we can start filling the little spaces in between. Get any one of them that is.
Cool. Nowt wrong as a plan. Except, of course when the big names go bust, the plan fails:
The demise of Debenhams threatens to rip the heart out of 60 town and city centres in which the famous retailer plays a crucial role in attracting shoppers to the area.
The end of Debenhams’ 242-year history could have a devastating knock-on effect on surrounding shops, particularly in the 60 locations where it is a standalone store considered an “anchor” by commercial real estate experts.
These include areas such as Norwich, Gloucester, Witney, Oxford and Lincoln.
Yes, we can see that’s a problem. Lacking the footfall those remoras around the anchor fail too. Seems pretty obvious in fact, take away the attraction and those reliant upon the attraction fail to thrive.
Now look again and consider what’s wrong with this picture?
The anchor stores have failed. Because they weren’t attracting enough custom – no, Debenhams did not go under because covid – couldn’t get people through the doors. Which means that the footfall to the swirling attendants had already fallen, doesn’t it?
The very process of going bust – not of being bust – is what has diminished the value of the anchor stores. Or even, shopping centres aren’t screwed because Debenhams has gone bust, Debenhams has gone bust because shopping centres are screwed.