More trouble for stores group

Fears for biggest loss of jobs if Debenhams rescue fails

Debenhams store Edinburgh

Debenhams has been on the high street for 242 years (pic: Terry Murden)

Debenhams’ is at risk of ending a 242-year-old link with the British high street in what could be the biggest single loss of jobs since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Owners of the department store chain have hired Hilco Capital to advise on its future which could end in liquidation if no rescuers emerge.

Debenhams employs around 14,000 staff across 120 stores in the UK but has already announced a further 2,500 will be axed, bringing the total of job cuts since the pandemic began to 4,000.

The chain store has been in administration since April and has launched an auction to secure new investors, with the aim of concluding a sale by the end of September.

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Several parties have expressed an interest in Debenhams, however experts believe the prospect of a buyer emerging for the company in its current state is unlikely.

A spokesperson for Debenhams said that 124 of its stores had reopened following lockdown and were “trading strongly”. Twenty closed permanently during the lockdown period.

In a statement the company said: “As a result, and as previously stated, the administrators of Debenhams Retail Ltd have initiated a process to assess ways for the business to exit its protective administration.

Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley: biggest shareholder

“The administrators have appointed advisors to help them assess the full range of possible outcomes which include the current owners retaining the business, potential new joint venture arrangements (with existing and potential new investors) or a sale to a third party.”

Despite recent success, the company, founded in 1778, also fell into administration in the spring of 2019 following a public dispute with Mike Ashley, whose Frasers Group company – formerly Sports Direct – became its largest shareholder.

He is thought to be interested in acquiring some of Debenhams sites.

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