"BRITISH institution" Debenhams is preparing to close all of its 124 UK shops after a rescue bid fell through.

Sussex stores including the Churchill Square site in Brighton are among the casualties as the retailer's announcement yesterday threw 12,000 jobs into jeopardy.

The county will also lose sites in Crawley, Worthing and Hastings.

High street giant JD Sports had been in rescue talks with the retail chain after it had plunged into administration in April, but these discussions were terminated.

A statement issued by the Debenhams Group yesterday read: "Debenhams will continue to trade through its 124 UK stores and online to clear its current and contracted stocks.

"On conclusion of this process, if no alternative offers have been received, the UK operations will close."

Argus readers lamented the upcoming loss of the high street staple in Sussex.

John Wells said: "I have many memories of going to the Eastbourne store throughout my childhood, especially the restaurant (which used to be on a different floor).

"I also remember the old Brighton store opposite Waitrose had a lift-operator.

"Sad to lose another British institution. RIP Debenhams."

Trace Sheppard said the news was "so sad" as she enjoyed visiting Debenhams stores, and praised the positive effects going shopping could have for mental health, providing opportunities to socialise and speak with others.

But Shirlee McCourty feared this experience may soon be a thing of the past, with the rise of online retailers.

"There will be no high street very soon, only supermarkets, estate agents and charity shops" she said.

"I have always tried to do both online and local shopping, but Covid has meant (my shopping is) now 99 per cent online."

The news popf Debenhams' demise comes in the same week that the Arcadia Group, which owns Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and more, also toppled into administration.

Brighton Pavilion Green MP Caroline Lucas said the fortunes of several high street giants were linked.

And she warned that the string of high-profile collapses would have a devastating impact on their staff.

Ms Lucas said: "The collapse of the Arcadia group, which has helped bring down Debenhams too, is deeply worrying for the many employees in the shops.

"They have faced uncertainty for years as their hard work and dedication has been milked by Sir Philip Green who’s made himself and his family a fortune while failing to invest in Arcadia’s future.

"While he suns himself on his yacht in Monaco, his employees have been hung out to dry.

"Stores like Topshop and Debenhams, whose rescue has been scuppered by the collapse of Arcadia, are an important part of our high streets, creating a retail ecosystem which allows the small, independent shops to thrive too.

"It’s very worrying that retail analysts are talking about the danger of a domino effect, with even more jobs going in the sector.

"Thriving high streets bring people together and help create a sense of community.

"Our city needs shops, and the staff who work in them deserve a boss who treats them with respect and invests in the business.

"In Sir Philip Green, they got neither."

Debenhams' administrators FRP Advisory said yesterday that the initial plans for a sale had "not resulted in a deliverable proposal" and a restructuring of the business was highly uncertain "given the current trading environment and the likely prolonged effects of the Covid-19 pandemic"

Geoff Rowley of FRP Advisory, joint administrator to Debenhams and partner at FRP, said: "All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams.

"However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.

"The decision to move forward with a closure programme has been carefully assessed and, while we remain hopeful that alternative proposals for the business may yet be received, we deeply regret that circumstances force us to commence this course of action.

"We are very grateful for the efforts of the management team and staff who have worked so hard throughout the most difficult of circumstances to keep the business trading.

"We would also like to thank the landlords, suppliers and partners who have continued to work with Debenhams through this turbulent period and can reassure them that all contractual obligations entered into in the administration period will be met in full."