TRADERS have called for Southend’s Debenham’s to be bought back into use as soon as possible, fearing the empty store is having a negative impact on nearby businesses.

The Debenham’s in the Royals Shopping Centre has stood empty since it closed in May 2021 and recent plans to turn it into a hub for independent businesses were scrapped. 

The Southend-based Regis Group bought up the Royals in August, 2022. 

At the moment, no fresh plan has developed and traders want to see the store used again to boost the number of customers.

Echo: Non-existent - Debenhams at the Royals Shopping CentreNon-existent - Debenhams at the Royals Shopping Centre (Image: Google Maps)

Dawn Sherry, the manager of Baggage World in the High Street shopping centre, was “excited” about the plan to bring the shop back into use.

She said: “When Debenhams was open, it acted as a customer driving force for us because people would come out and then come straight into us.

“I was quite excited to hear different traders could have a space in the unit because it would’ve given them a platform to showcase their business to the community.

“As well as that, it would’ve injected more life into the Debenhams end of the shopping centre because it’s been a ghost town since it shut up shop.

“It would’ve been a big benefit for everyone if the project became a reality.

"It's a huge blow."

The previous plan, put together by London-based organisation the Utilize Project, had been touted to open in August but was ditched due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

Some independent businesses, such as the plus-sized female fashion brand Dearcurves, were even shortlisted to take up a spot in the empty department store unit.

Antony Tomassi, owner of Tomassi’s restaurant in the High Street and member of the Southend Business Improvement District (BID) said: “The Debenhams unit being empty is having an impact.

“The city centre is not running as well as it should do because there’s not enough shops to pull people in.

Echo: Trader - Antony TomassiTrader - Antony Tomassi (Image: Tomassi's)

“For more people to come to Southend and therefore attract more businesses to come and set up shop in the city, the High Street needs to become more vibrant and appealing.

“I hope it can do that in the future.”

The Echo has approached the owners of the Royals for comment but there was no response.