IT was the year that saw the disappearance from the high street of some of shopping’s biggest names – including Debenhams and Burton.

These closures would once have seemed like the apocalypse for the retail industry.

But while there is no sugar-coating the loss of thousands of jobs, a reinvention of the high street might be under way.

The pandemic has said to have accelerated changes that were already happening, but when speaking to retailers, the same insight keeps cropping up.

READ MOREDorset Monsoon and Accessorize store closing in the New Year

Dorset Echo: Weymouth town centreWeymouth town centre

A series of Covid lockdowns blighted all retailers. But those lockdowns were particularly hard for some of the biggest chains that were already dealing with high rent and rates, historic debts and ever-increasing competition from online shopping.

The Arcadia Group employed 13,000 people and had 444 UK stores when it went into administration towards the end of December 2020.

Its brand names were snapped up by online rivals. Boohoo bought Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton for £25.2million, while Asos paid £265m for Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge. Evans went to City Chic for £23m. But it is suspected those buyers only wanted the names and the stock – not the shops.

Dorset Echo:

The same was true for the 244-year-old Debenhams chain, whose name and stock were sold to Boohoo for £55m without its 118 stores and most of the 12,000 jobs.

Town centres everywhere are looking to a future without some of their biggest names.

Sharon Phillips-Day, landlady of The Kings Arms, in Trinity Road, said rental rates in Weymouth are too high, which she claims has forced a lot of business owners to pack up and leave.

Dorset Echo: The King's ArmsThe King's Arms

She said: "I feel as though rent in Weymouth is too high for businesses.

"It's too expensive and I think it's forced a lot of business owners to leave - especially during the pandemic.

"People like to visit areas to shop at certain stores. I travel to Bournemouth to shop at Primark, and visit Southampton to shop there."

Debenhams has been one of the biggest of the high street casualties - with the Weymouth town centre branch closing in January.

Despite the blow to the town's fashion offering, the landmark building in New Bond Street was soon snapped up by budget retailer The Range meaning it did not stand empty for long.

Mrs Phillips-Day added: "It's a shame that we're losing big businesses such as Debenhams because it will reduce people coming to the town.

"Obviously, Debenhams was going to go bust, but I'd agree the pandemic accelerated that."

Dorset Echo:

Fashion and jewellery retailer Monsoon Accessorize has also recently announced it will be closing the doors of its Weymouth branch for good on January 5 - leading to calls for greater government support for traders suffering amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Another business owner in Weymouth said losing big names on the high street will have an effect on smaller, independent businesses.

Graham Bentley runs La Luna, in St Mary Street, and said he has seen a dip in revenue compared to previous years.

"I think the high street has been hit due to a few factors such as the pandemic and mixed messages from the Government," he said.

"There's been a lack of clarity of a clearer path for businesses to prepare better.

"People are wary of going out and it's having a huge effect on shops.

"I don't sell anything online - everything is sold within the shop, and I have loyal customers."

Dorset Echo: Graham Bentley outside his shop in St Mary StreetGraham Bentley outside his shop in St Mary Street