Dear Debenhams, don’t dare disappear

Shoppers pass outside Debenhams in Norwich
. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY.

Shoppers pass outside Debenhams in Norwich . PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY. - Credit: � ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

Nostalgia might be all in the past but that doesn't stop us wallowing in it.

I can't resist black-and-white photos of Cromer or Norwich in the past. If the interest in our Norwich Remembers Facebook page is anything to go by, I'm a foot soldier in a huge army.

The things that I love the most are the locations of old shops and trying to work out what is there today.

It all stirs memories of childhood shopping trips to Norwich - not that things were in black-and-white in the 1980s; photos of my Dad in his tank top show that brown and mustard also existed.

A look around the wicker world of Hovell's; poster hunting at Athena; pick-and-mix scooped up at Woolies; the nylon nightmare of granny dresses at BHS and the torture of M&S, where Mum tried to break the world record for the longest time taken to choose a skirt.


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Finally, Debenhams - or Debbadums as a small me used to pronounce it - to choke on the fumes in the perfume department.

Of these shops, most are extinct. M&S remains, but I'm so damaged by how it swallowed up the site of Athena and Woolies that I can't fully acknowledge it.

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That leaves one of the Titans of trade in Norwich - Debenhams. Known always to my Nan as Curls (its name changed in 1973, the year that I first graced this planet), it has been a sea of tranquillity in a foaming ocean of retail revolution. It's a reference point and a source of comfort. For I like to focus on the familiar as I navigate this era of non-stop change.

So when I heard this week of possible store closures for Debenhams, I was something between anxious and horrified (my inner thesaurus is on the blink).

Norwich without Debenhams is unimaginable. It would be like removing the Castle from the hill.

Actually, it wouldn't. I think I'm becoming over dramatic.

However, Debenhams - which I'm sure will survive - would be missed.

It's not that I ever go in there. I don't really do department stores, which feel as though they are targeting an older and wealthier market. Plus, perfume now makes me sneeze as well as choke. I don't want to breathe my last near ladies' hats and Chanel No 5.

But I like to know it's there - a bit like the Church of England.

For the wellbeing of the people of Norwich born before 1980, there should be a subsidy system to prop up dear old Debenhams if it does scent danger.

Either that or it could be taken on by the Norwich Society or the National Trust to be a living museum.

I'm just throwing contingencies out there, in the event of disaster.

But the central message is this - don't you dare dismantle Debenhams.

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