Big queues were evident in the Frenchgate Centre yesterday as shoppers returned to the town centre following the end of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
And many headed for the centre’s flagship store after the firm announced a clearance sale ahead of the closure of all its 124 UK stores.
12,000 jobs are at risk unless a last ditch buyer can be found for the ailing chain which has been hit hard by Covid-19.
The firm officially started a liquidation process after JD Sports pulled out of a possible rescue deal.
The department store chain, which is 242 years old, confirmed that its administrators had “regretfully” decided to start winding down operations while continuing to seek offers “for all or parts of the business”.
Joint administrator to Debenhams, Geoff Rowley, of FRP Advisory added: “All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams.
“However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.
“The decision to move forward with a closure programme has been carefully assessed and, while we remain hopeful that alternative proposals for the business may yet be received, we deeply regret that circumstances force us to commence this course of action.
“We are very grateful for the efforts of the management team and staff who have worked so hard throughout the most difficult of circumstances to keep the business trading.
"We would also like to thank the landlords, suppliers and partners who have continued to work with Debenhams through this turbulent period and can reassure them that all contractual obligations entered into in the administration period will be met in full.”
The company’s website also crashed yesterday as shoppers raced to find bargains.
Debenhams has been in administration since April and had cut about 6,500 jobs since May as it struggled to stay afloat.