DEBENHAMS has announced it will close its Weymouth store - a decision which has been described as 'sad but inevitable' by business leaders.

As previously reported, Debenhams has announced it will close its 124 stores after a rescue deal with JD Sports fell through.

The Weymouth store, in New Bond Street, was opened in December 1999. The chain had previously had a store in St Thomas Street and St Mary Street.

Craig Oakes, president of Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is very sad news and we are looking at a great loss of physical presence in the town.

"It is right in the middle of our town and it has been here for so long so I think people will find it a big wrench to lose it. It will be difficult to fill the space both physically and emotionally for a lot of people.

"Coronavirus has accelerated the closure, however, I think we might be looking at a new age of retail and department stores may no longer be part of the modern high street.

"I think we are heading towards having more independent stores in the town."

Claudia Webb, chief operations officer at Weymouth BID, said: "It is very sad news and I am worried about the local people that will be losing their jobs as a result of the closure.

"I do think that Weymouth is moving more towards having a high street that is predominantly independent shops anyway so, unfortunately, Debenhams closing is just a sign of the times."

Adam Pennington, senior associate solicitor specialising in employment law at Stephensons:

“For thousands of workers this news will come as a hammer blow, particularly so close to Christmas. Over the course of this pandemic we have witnessed the retail and hospitality sector freefall into distress and the knock-on effect this has had on people’s lives and livelihoods. Since the beginning of the first lockdown and despite the various government support packages, we have seen a huge increase in retailers seeking legal support as they enter redundancy consultations with staff.

“If neither Debenhams or Arcadia can be salvaged it’s crucial that workers are aware of their legal rights, the obligations of their employer and the options open to them even when their employer is insolvent.”