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Report warns that Landmark department stores are in danger

According to a new report, at least 18 “High Road Elephants” – architecturally important department stores that have undergone profound changes in shopping style – are at risk of permanent extinction.

But these “commercial buildings”, as Emile Zola describes in his 1883 novel The Ladies’ Paradise, must be given new lives – such as art galleries, domestic structures, community capitals and social spaces. Save Britain’s Heritage says.

“In a new age when large-scale retail is no longer sustainable, these fine structures are in danger of being neglected or in fact extinct; protecting and reviving these structures is not just a matter of preserving valuable and specialized armor.

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The report details 46 corner department stores in the city and mega city centers. Some have been restored or rebuilt while preserving their architectural heritage, but others are empty and in danger of decaying or disappearing.

By mid-2021, there were 237 vacant department stores in the UK, according to the British Retail Consortium and Local Data Company. Nine of Debenhams’ 10 stores were still empty after the chain broke, and one-fifth of the former BHS outlets were empty five times after the company’s demise.
The slow decline of department stores began with the creation of shopping centers and out-of-town retail premises in the alternative half of the last century. This has been accelerated by the growth of online shopping, which has been supported by increased rents and business rates.

Between 2006 and 2020, online deals rose to almost 20 per cent of UK retail, and further increased to 30 during the double lockdown and shutdown twice. In the first quarter of 2021, overall retail vacancies were at a five-fold high of 14.1.
The report states that “department stores on the British highways make up some of the best and most socially important structures. Designed to impress and impress, they have truly great architectural potential, and the city’s key materials.” Stands as a memorial to
Marcus Bunny, managing chairman of Save Britain’s Heritage, sa

id “There is hardly a major city in the UK that has not experienced a department store and occasional check-in. The race is on to identify and inspect these structures.

The inventors were also claiming to change these structures for new uses. Even more frightening was the number of cases where owners were trying to demolish their department stores while obtaining economic planning warrants for a major breakthrough.

The report says a number of structures have posed significant challenges to change. Among those at risk is TJ Hughes in Eastbourne, which was completed in 1926 but has been vacant since May 2019, according to the report. The structure has beautiful painted piers, molded cartridges and point door windows.
Plans have now been put in place to demolish the beach structure, and instead “a pleasant apartment block … the irreparable loss of this detailed and distinctive structure would be a real tragedy.”

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In Nottingham, a former Griffin and Spalding store is “a popular location in the mega-city center.” Its tombstone facade, built in 1924, is “spread out with a sculpted coffin, a large cartouche with sculptural cherubs, and a gallery of attached columns.”
The store was purchased by Debenhams in 1944, and closed in May 2021. “There are no future plans for this magnificent building,” the report said.

But Bobby’s in Bournemouth has been successfully redesigned since it last closed as a department store. In addition to the retail space, there is an art gallery with food halls and a roof top bar planned. The demesne includes community spaces, and architectural features are being restored.



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