IT HAS been another tough year for retail, with the pandemic impacting many businesses.

The result has seen various high-street stores, restaurants and charity shops forced to close branches across the country.

Basingstoke has seen the impact of this in the town centre with various shops and restaurants having to shut up for good.

Here we look at some of the much-loved businesses which we said goodbye to in the town in 2021.

Debenhams

The flagship branch of Debenhams in Festival Place closed its doors in May, after almost 20 years in the town.

The branch opened in the newly built Festival Place in 2002 and has been a key feature of the shopping centre since.

However, the business had a tough time over the last couple of years and a rescue deal fell through in 2020 resulting in it going into liquidation.

In January this year, Debenhams was bought by online fashion giant Boohoo in a £55 million deal, but the fast-fashion site was only interested in the brand name and website, deciding to close its stores.

It is not yet known what plans there are to fill the now vacant three-floor unit, with Festival Place yet to reveal any other interest in the space.

John Lewis

The closure of John Lewis came as a huge blow to Basingstoke when it was announced in June that the store would shut permanently.

It was one of eight John Lewis stores to close this year across the country.

The Gazette reported that 93 jobs were at risk, although the business pledged to support its employees.

John Lewis opened its new store in Basingstoke less than six years ago, in November 2015, providing a big boost to the town ahead of the regeneration of Basing View.

The purpose-build 73,000 square foot store was co-located alongside Waitrose, which has remained open.

It is not known if there are any plans to find another retailer to occupy the empty space.

Top Shop

In February this year we reported that Topshop would not reopen in Festival Place, despite a buyout.

The clothing store was taken over by fashion brand Asos, which moved Topshop online.

Asos sealed the takeover of Topshop and three other brands following the collapse of the Arcadia retail empire for £265 million.

Gourmet Burger King (GBK)

In September burger restaurant GBK closed, creating another loss for Festival Place.

GBK launched in 2001 and has 35 restaurants across the UK, Ireland, and Dubai.

In 2020 it was reported that the future of the business was in doubt after the chain’s owner said it was pulling the plug on financial support.

The brand said GBK had seen a deterioration in sales during March 2020, ahead of closures because of the pandemic.

Later in the year in October 2020 GBK cut 362 jobs despite being bought in a rescue deal by Boparan Restaurant Group.

It announced the closure of 26 stores, while saving 35 sites and 669 jobs.

The Basingstoke branch was not on the list of those closing at the time.

Following the closure, the unit was taken over by Five Guys, another burger chain, which opened this month.

British Heart Foundation

In March we reported that one of Basingstoke’s largest charity shops would not be reopening in the spring.

The lease on the British Heart Foundation's Winchester Street store, which supplied furniture and electrics, wasn't extended.

Daniel Phillips, who managed the store since joining the charity two years ago, said: "Hopefully we will be returning at some point in the future."

He thanked customers and volunteers for their efforts since the branch opened in 2016, saying: "I'd like to say thank you to all for their support.”

The Sushi Maki

In February we reported that sushi restaurant and takeaway The Sushi Maki would close after falling victim to the pandemic restrictions.

The Festival Place branch announced on social media that its last day of trading would be February 28.

The Japanese restaurant opened in Basingstoke in December 2018 offering a range of hot and cold sushi, with capacity for 48 people.

The chefs prepared food in front of customers in the open kitchens.

A team at the Basingstoke restaurant thanked their customers for their support, adding that the closure was “incredibly sad news”.

The statement said: “We are sorry to announce we will be closing permanently as of Sunday 28 February 2021.

“We would like to thank our loyal customers for your support since opening and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, unfortunately the impact of the last 12 months has led to this difficult decision.”

The unit has now been taken over by burger chain Five Guys.

GAP

US-based retailer GAP confirmed in July that it was set to axe all of its 81 UK and Ireland stores, which included its branch in Festival Place.

GAP’s UK operations struggled in recent years and saw the impact of the pandemic closures deliver the fatal blow.

RSPCA

Another Basingstoke charity shop was forced to close this year, citing falling footfall and anti-social behaviour at the Top of Town.

The RSPCA store in London Street shut in July, with the charity saying it was looking for new units with fears that it “may not be able to continue our amazing charity work”.

The charity shop was its main income to fund welfare work in the Basingstoke and Andover areas.

The charity has had a presence in the region for 50 years.