Debenhams may close 90 stores, putting 10,000 jobs at risk

Struggling department store chain said to be considering shutting more than half of its outlets

Ben Chapman
Monday 14 January 2019 11:49
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Debenhams closures: High street chain to shut 50 stores around UK, putting 4,000 jobs at risk

Debenhams is reportedly planning to shut around 90 stores, potentially putting more than 10,000 jobs at risk, as part of a rescue plan.

The struggling department store chain, a fixture on high streets for more than two centuries, has said publicly that it plans to shut around 50 stores over three to five years, affecting around 4,000 jobs.

But privately the board has identified up to 40 more that could go, The Telegraph reports. Debenhams is understood to be considering all options as it battles falling numbers of shoppers, a large rent bill and intensifying online competition.

A group of the company’s lenders hired FTI Consulting last week to advise on restructuring Debenhams to ensure they see as much as possible of their money returned. That came a day before Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, who has a 30 per cent stake in Debenhams, spearheaded a dramatic boardroom coup, ousting chairman Ian Cheshire and chief executive Sergio Bucher.

Mr Bucher remains in the chief executive role but no longer has a seat on the board after Mr Ashley and another shareholder, Landmark Capital, voted against his re-appointment.

The company said it is in the “best interests of Debenhams PLC that the executive team remains fully focused on delivery of the plan”.

Mr Bucher is expected to put forward formal turnaround proposals to lenders in the coming weeks but investors are showing few signs of confidence in Debenhams’ prospects.

Shares fell a further 3 per cent on Monday morning to a record low of just 3.79p, down from 195p when Debenhams floated on the stock market in 2006.

Back then the chain was valued at £1.7bn; now it is worth £83m. Like-for-like sales dropped 3.4 per cent in the six weeks to 5 January.

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