The expected closure of Debenhams will leave workers facing an “uncertain period” ahead of Christmas, the city development convener for Dundee City Council has said.
Councillor Mark Flynn also expressed concern at the effect the closure could have on the city centre’s economy.
The Overgate also faces losing significant retailers such as Topshop as high street giant Arcadia fell into administration.
Some 12,000 employees across the UK could lose their jobs if the department store retailer goes under. JD Sports pulled out of talks to take over the firm following the collapse of Arcadia.
Mr Flynn said: “While this news is disappointing and will clearly have an impact on the city’s economy, behind all the big numbers are people who will be facing an uncertain and difficult period, which is especially hard at this time of year.
“The fact that today’s announcements are not unexpected is no consolation.
“It does highlight more than ever the need for the multi-agency citywide response to ensure the city’s recovery plan from the pandemic is implemented and we do all we can to make sure the skills and experience of the people who are looking for work can be part of the process of building back better.”
Alison Henderson, chief executive of Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce, said: “Clearly it’s a big blow for the city centre and really disappointing.
“These massive retail chains have been looking at their business models this year and every one of them has been trying to adapt but we’ve seen all sorts of closures.
“These large organisations have just found it incredibly difficult to survive this year.
“I’m very sad for people who are going to lose their jobs locally. The closure of the Dundee Debenhams will certainly leave a large hole in the Overgate Centre.
“There is a consultation happening at the moment which is helping people understand what the future of what Dundee city centre might look like.
“I would encourage people to give their feedback on what they would like to see.”
Bill Bowman, Scottish Conservative MSP for the north-east region, said the loss to the high street will further compound and already worrying “job crisis”.
“The potential of a major retailer such as Debenhams closing in Dundee is a huge blow to the city as Christmas approaches,” he said.
“It has already been a difficult week for retailers and staff following the announcement of Arcadia going into administration.
The website is trading as usual and stores will be open in line with local Government guidance. We are accepting orders and processing refunds and returns as normal. We continue to accept credit cards, store cards, gift cards and Beauty Club rewards as forms of payment. pic.twitter.com/Pwl3C9y8i4
— Debenhams (@Debenhams) December 1, 2020
“Debenhams has a legacy in Dundee and this announcement is devastating for shopping centres such as the Overgate, who are doing everything they can to keep the doors of its stores open.
“My thoughts go to the hard-working staff who have been placed in this awful situation and support must be given to them through this difficult period.
“It’s vital our struggling high street businesses receive more help otherwise we risk plunging further into a job crisis.”
Shopping centre woes
If a buyer is found for part of the Debenhams portfolio, Overgate management expect the Dundee store to be included in any deal.
Tom Williams, fund manager at the shopping centre, said: “We are disappointed that talks between JD Sports and Debenhams have ended.
“We will continue to work with the administrator and hope an alternative buyer is found for a core portfolio of stores which we believe, based on performance, would be likely to include the Overgate store.”
In Angus, the Abbeygate Centre in Arbroath could lose one of its prime shops: Arcadia-owned Dorothy Perkins.
Management at the Abbeygate declined to comment, saying they await the outcome of the administration process before making their strategy public.