DEBENHAMS may be converted into office space or a hotel, the landowners have said.

In January, it was announced that the Debenhams store on Magdalen Street would not be reopening after the end of the third lockdown.

In a letter addressed to staff, retail managers explained that the landlord had ‘served notice on the store’ as they had ‘alternative plans’ for the site.

This newspaper can reveal that the whole property, where Debenhams occupied the upper floors, is owned by Strathclyde Pension Fund.

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This pension fund manages the pensions for all Glasgow City Council employees.

A spokesperson for DTZ Investors, who manage Strathclyde Pension Fund, told the Oxford Mail: “The property was acquired some seven or eight years ago as an investment for the Fund.

“Since Debenhams went into administration last year, we have been exploring possible alternative uses for the upper floors of the property.

“These alternatives could include potential conversion to office or hotel use.”

The spokesperson said that the investors are currently undergoing the process of ‘pricing various alternatives’ and ‘expect to be in a position to make a further announcement about the preferred option later this year.’

In December 2020, it was announced that the department store would be going into administration after JD sports pulled out of its rescue deal to save the 242-year-old department store.

Last week, however, the online fashion retailer Boohoo announced that it had bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55 million.

The physical stores, however, would close.

Debenhams is not the only department store in the city centre that may be converted into a hotel.

In November 2019, Boswells department store, on Broad Street, announced it would be closing in 2020.

The family-run store had been trading since 1738.

Last December it was announced that there were plans to transform the historical department store into a four-star boutique hotel.

A deal between the building’s owner, Oxford City Council, and the Reef Group, the company that wants to build the luxury hotel, to be named ‘Store', was made.

A council official said transforming the building would help boost the local economy by providing room for short term stays in the city centre.

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Boswells' lease on the building had been due to last until June 2058, but Reef has bought the last 38 years of the lease from the department store.

When reader's found out about the news that Debenhams would be closing, some said they were 'gutted'.

Kate Johnson said on the Oxford Mail Facebook page: “It is so sad.

"It does make you wonder what the high streets and towns will look like after all of this.”

Another reader, Debbie Hounslow, added: “Both my daughters are now unemployed. I loved shopping in there and the staff were always so friendly.”

Debenhams, however, is not the only retail casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic. High-street stores, Cath Kidston, T.M. Lewin and Laura Ashley also closed in 2020.

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