The former Debenhams site, which has been lying empty for more than six months, could be turned into a Bradbeers department store, the Journal understands.
The prominent site on Blue Boar Row has been vacant since retailer Debenhams pulled out of the city after failing to reach “appropriate terms” with the landlord back in April.
Since then, there have been concerns over the future of the premises in the heart of Salisbury city centre – with many wondering who might take it over and what might happen next.
However, owners Smith and Bradbeer, who already run department stores in Romsey and New Milton, have today (November 23) revealed they would like to expand – with Salisbury very much in their plans.
Plan A for Salisbury Debenhams building
Director Greg Davies said: “The aspiration is to open up a Bradbeers store in Salisbury city centre, that’s the aspiration but obviously with the uncertainty of the economy and the Covid situation we are not bringing those plans forward.
“We have put the building on the market as well but plan A is to have a Bradbeers department store in Salisbury once the uncertainty has evaporated and the economy has stabilised.”
Since Debenhams shut up shop, the family business dating back to 1837 has taken back control of the premises, which Mr Davies says is “the best thing”.
However, partners and suppliers need to be on the same page before plans to open a new store can move forward.
He added: “All our cosmetic suppliers have a temporary ban on recruitment so we can’t open until they are all on board, it’s not just our decision.
“All the cosmetic counters are still there but until we get our partners on board we can’t open and plans can’t go forward until the economy is in a more stable situation.”
Cautious hope for 2021 opening
If a Bradbeers store was to open, hopefully in the second half of next year, the company hopes it will be more profitable than Debenhams.
According to the firm, the turnover of the Salisbury Debenhams branch was lower than Romsey’s Bradbeers.
“We feel the turnover will increase by getting the clothing offer right. We’ve had discussions with various concession partners and they’re up for it so we can bring some quite good brands that aren’t currently around at the moment.
“It’s just going to take a while before we can do that. I don’t want to put people’s hopes up, we can’t really announce anything until we get over this uncertainty.”
No formal offers for building
Although the building has been put on the market, Mr Davies said that due to the pandemic the company has so far received no formal offers.
However, when they bought the site in 2010, the thought of turning it into a Bradbeers should Debenhams pull out was already in their mind as a plan B, he said.
“Salisbury is only 15 miles from Romsey which is also our head office, it’s easy to manage because it’s close-by so it makes sense to open another site.
“Hopefully by the end of next year [it will be open] but we can’t really say for sure at the moment.”