Debenhams to start closing stores with loss of 1,200 jobs

Debenhams has confirmed it will close 22 stores early next year, putting 1,200 jobs at risk.

The retailer has named 22 of the 50 ‘worst-performing’ stores it plans to close as part of a new ownership.

The new owners, which include Barclays and Bank of England as well as US investment firms, said they are trying to put the department store chain on ‘a stable financial footing and ensure the future of the company’.

Debenhams executive chairman Terry Duddy said the chain has a ‘bright future’ but it has to restructure the business in order to ‘save as many stores and jobs as we can’.

Full list of stores expected to close in 2020: 

Birmingham Fort
Great Yarmouth
Welwyn Garden City

Mr Duddy said: ‘The issues facing the UK high street are very well known.

‘Debenhams has a clear strategy and a bright future but in order for the business to prosper, we need to restructure the group’s portfolio and its balance sheet, which are not appropriate for today’s much-changed retail environment.

‘Our priority is to save as many stores and as many jobs as we can, while making the business fit for the future.’

Lenders took control in a £200 million deal which wiped out the investments of shareholders earlier this month.

Debenhams’s 166 UK stores, with 25,000 employees, have continued to trade as normal.

The group has announced a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which will see the affected shops continue trading until early 2020.

Further closures could still be announced following discussions with landlords. Meanwhile rent reductions will be sought on many of the remaining branches.

The retailer announced that it would pursue a restructuring last year, but the path for the process has now been cleared after control of the company was passed to its lenders.

Debenhams went into a pre-pack administration earlier this month, wiping out the stakes of all shareholders including Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley.

Creditors including landlords will have the opportunity to vote on the CVA in a process overseen by advisers at KPMG.

Restructuring partner at KPMG Jim Tucker said: ‘Today’s announcement marks the next phase of Debenhams’ financial and operational restructuring strategy, following the comprehensive funding package announced at the end of March.

‘If approved, and with the support of lenders and landlords, the CVAs will allow the business the flexibility to implement its turnaround strategy with a store estate that reflects the current UK retail environment.’

Debenhams also released a financial update for the 26 weeks to March 2, showing that sales at its UK stores declined by 7.4 per cent during the period due to weaker footfall.

Underlying earnings declined by 36.6 per cent to £65.9 million.