THE owners of a Basingstoke shopping centre are still looking for a retailer to fill the empty unit previously occupied by Debenhams.

The department store, which had been in Festival Place since the shopping centre opened in 2002, has now been shut for 18 months.

People gathered at the Festival Place flagship store on its final day of trading in May 2021 to take photographs and selfies to mark the end of an era as the store closed following almost 20 years in the town.

Read more: Final moments at Festival Place Debenhams 

Neil Churhill, centre director of Festival Place, said last year after Debenhams closed that the shopping centre was looking at “viable alternatives” for the space.

However, 18 months later and the three-floor unit remains empty and Festival Place has no update on plans for it to be occupied again.

A Festival Place spokesperson said: “We’re constantly on the lookout to bring in the perfect brands for our visitors balancing retail and leisure.

“The Debenhams unit offers a significant opportunity for us and Basingstoke town centre. As soon as we have an update we will share it with you.”

Debenhams permanently closed all of its stores in May 2021 after going into liquidation, putting an end to its 242 years of trading.

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While it had struggled for years, the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns pushed it over the edge.

Some of its former units have plans for alternative developments, including the former Debenhams department store in Southampton which has been earmarked for 600 homes.

The former Debenhams site in Bournemouth has been replaced by Bobby’s, another department store with a beauty hall, art gallery, and sushi restaurant.

Paul Kinvig, chief operating officer of Bournemouth Town Centre BID, told the Gazette’s sister paper the Bournemouth Echo at the opening event in September 2021: “Towns and cities across the county will be looking at the Bobby’s building as what you can do with imagination and commitment in relation to these old department store buildings after many of them closed down.”

What would you like to see replace the Basingstoke Debenhams? Let us know in the comments.