Sounds of laughter, footsteps and chatter have filled Festival Place once more as shoppers have returned to the centre as lockdown lifts today.

And one of the big draws for customers appears to be Debenhams which will open for the final time today for a closing down sale.

The historic department store went bust earlier this year, leaving Festival Place and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council will the problem of finding a brand large enough to fill the soon-to-be-vacant space.

But these worries are on hold this morning as dozens of people are queuing in the hope of grabbing a bargain when the store opens at 10am. 

Susan Walsh and her husband are waiting outside Debenhams eager to find some bargains. She said: “ I am hoping to find a few sale items, in particular perfume. Maybe some clothes too. Life seems like it could slowly be returning to normal. It will take time.”

Basingstoke Gazette: The shop is operating a one-way entry system with exit on the first floor (pictured)The shop is operating a one-way entry system with exit on the first floor (pictured)

Last year, the 242-year-old department store chain said its administrators “regretfully” decided to start winding down operations after JD Sports pulled out of a possible rescue deal.

Like every shop reopening from today, Debenhams are anticipating the shop to be popular, and are putting safety measures in place to ensure people can browse the best deals in a Covid-secure way.

It is worth being aware of the following ahead of making a trip there:

The company will be limiting the number of customers in-store at any one time.

There will be clear signage, and staff will be on hand to help everyone maintain a safe distance.

There will be extra cleaning being done frequently and hand sanitiser will be provided for staff and customers to use.

As per government guidelines it is mandatory that all customers wear a face covering in Debenhams’ stores.