Debenhams to close after 242 years on the high street

Founded on Bond Street, London, in 1778, the historic department store, Debenhams, faces imminent closure after its last remaining bidder, JD Sports backed out of the deal.

The business, which entered administration in April 2020 after the first national lockdown, is officially in liquidation and its 124 stores are set to close for good, with 12,000 jobs likely to go with it.

Debenhams had been struggling for at least two years, posting its biggest ever pre-tax loss of £491 million and closing around 50 stores in 2018.

Geoff Rowley, of FRP Advisory, joint administrator to Debenhams, 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. We deeply regret that circumstances force us to commence this course of action”.

Having operated on Britain’s high streets for 242 years, Debenhams will run a ‘Wild Wednesday’ sale of all remaining stock when shops reopen tomorrow, December 2. Up to 70% has already been cut from the price of online items in a pre-Christmas fire sale.

There is likely to be a stampede of shoppers ready to snap up bargains and Debenhams has been piling up boxes of its goods in preparation for the huge discounting frenzy.

Customers with gift cards are urged to use them as soon as possible, before administrators block their use as the business enters its final stages.
This week is being described as one of the most ‘devastating’ weeks in British retail history, with around 25,000 workers put at risk of redundancy in around half a day and thousands of pensions also at risk.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government ‘stands ready’ to support retail workers facing job losses, as employees at Debenhams and Arcadia Group – which collapsed yesterday, Monday November 30, face redundancy before Christmas and anxiously await news of their pensions.

Responding to a question in the House of Commons, Mr Sunak said: “The news about Arcadia, and indeed Debenhams, is deeply worrying for employees and their families and the Government stands ready to support them.”

Many retailers are bracing themselves for 24 hour a day openings in an attempt to claw back some of the £900 million a day being lost via lockdowns and the Government’s regional tier system.

The news is not bad for all retailers. Shares in Marks and Spencer and Frasers Group – a frontrunner in bids for the Arcadia Group brands – saw their shares rise strongly during early trading, as they look set to be the last surviving big department store chains in town centres and shopping centers.

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