Debenhams’ warning over deserted city centre stores

The boss of Debenhams has warned they will close sites in deserted city centres unless workers return to the office soon. 

Chairman Mark Gifford said his firm needed to see a strong recovery to keep stores in Edinburgh, Leeds and central London open long-term. 

At the same time Pret A Manger’s boss Pano Christou said there was ‘no doubt’ workers will come into the office less – as he predicted a long-term shift to home working. 

Warning: Chairman Mark Gifford said his firm needed to see a strong recovery to keep stores in Edinburgh, Leeds and central London open long-term

Warning: Chairman Mark Gifford said his firm needed to see a strong recovery to keep stores in Edinburgh, Leeds and central London open long-term

Warning: Chairman Mark Gifford said his firm needed to see a strong recovery to keep stores in Edinburgh, Leeds and central London open long-term

Many of Britain’s largest companies have said they will not require staff to return to the office until next year, sucking the life out of local economies that feed off lunchtime and after-work footfall. 

Figures from the British Retail Consortium this week painted a grim picture of ‘ghost cities’, with footfall down by 41.7 per cent in August compared to the same month last year. 

Gifford said: ‘The city centre stores are really experiencing the most difficult conditions.

‘There are less tourists around and less city workers, and that’s all contributing to them trading less well than we would like. 

‘And for them to be long-term viable stores we really do need to see a stronger recovery than what we are seeing.’ 

Pret a Manger made 2,890 staff redundant last week and has launched a coffee delivery service to drum up business. 

Christou told the BBC: ‘There’s no doubt that workers will come into the office less often, and I think from Pret’s perspective very early on we said: ‘This is not for us to decide.’

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