Debenhams celebrates 40 years of shopping success

Debenhams, based at The Mall Blackburn, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the town.

The department store opened its doors on 17th October 1979 when bell-bottoms, platform shoes and mini skirts were all the rage – and the BBC sitcom ‘Are You Being Served’ was popular on TV.

As the store becomes a hive of activity for a week of celebrations with offers, giveaways and demonstrations, three members of staff who were there at the start, look back at those early days.

Anita Sunter first worked in the lighting department but after four years her creative flair and qualifications earned her the position of Visual Merchandiser and she has been responsible for all the amazing in store displays for more than three decades. 

Sharon Raymond, who is a sales adviser in the lingerie department, started as a ‘Saturday girl’ to supplement her full time job while she was saving up for a car. She then went on to work full time in various departments before settling in lingerie.

Kate Morrell has been an integral part of Debenhams support services since 1979, when she joined following seven years in the Navy. Her first position as stock room assistant soon developed into roles in the cash office and personnel before she became a senior business support assistant.

All three live in Blackburn and have many fond memories of their time there with stories including favourite customers, changing home and fashion trends and, of course, the ever evolving uniform.

Each of the ladies also spoke of the family atmosphere amongst staff and management in the Blackburn branch, an ethos echoed by the Store Manager, Scott Rimmer. 

Scott said: “Celebrating four decades of shopping here in Blackburn is just wonderful and our people really are our most precious asset. 

“Not only do we have these three fabulous ladies that have been here for 40 years but more than a quarter of our staff have been here for more than 20 years, proving that Debenhams really is an amazing place to work. 

“I have been working hard with the amazing team here to listen to customers and make sure the products and services are right.

Scott has been at the helm since April 2018 and has already taken great strides to continually improve the store and its offering.

“It is all about finding out exactly what people in the local area want,” he said. “I have been working in retail for 17 years, both in the UK and overseas and I am delighted to be here in Blackburn.

“The staff here are brilliant, I love to stand back and watch them interact with shoppers, it gives me a great sense of pride. 

“Reaching 40 years is a huge milestone for any business, but in an era of uncertainty on the high street I feel it is extra special for us and I can’t wait to celebrate with everyone this week.”

Debenhams is the largest store in The Mall and its opening in 1979 was part of the official launch of the third and final phase of what was then Blackburn Shopping Centre.

More recently, in 2013, Debenhams underwent a multi-million-pound redevelopment and extension. An additional 4,700 square foot of retail space was created and a new flagship beauty hall was launched.

Debenhams was named Retailer of the Year at The Mall Blackburn’s Annual Retailer Awards in 2019.

Key brands include Dior, Estée Lauder, Principles, Warehouse, Quiz, Levi’s, Ben Sherman, J by Jasper Conran, Yankee Candle and Joe Wicks collection.

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