Fresh fears for Debenhams in the north as 20 UK stores face new year axe

Debenhams is set to outline plans to close 20 UK stores early next year. Picture by Hugh Russell
Gareth McKeown

THERE are fresh fears for the future of Debenhams in the north, with reports the troubled department store will close 20 UK outlets early next year.

According to Sky News, the new owners of Debenhams will outline plans today to close more than 10 per cent of its 165 UK store portfolio after the critical Christmas trading period, at a cost of over 1,000 jobs.

It has been reported that the retailer, which briefly plunged into administration earlier this month, will launch a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which will pave the way for the first of 50 stores to close over the next three years.

It has been reported that Debenhams will also seek rent reductions across much of the rest of its estate as part of the wider restructuring plan, announced last October.

The CVA, a controversial insolvency procedure used by struggling firms to shut under-performing shops, would have to be approved by 75 per cent of creditors and it is understood a vote could take place on the move next month.

Debenhams employs around 26,000 staff in the UK, around 250 of which are in the north.

The chain's biggest Northern Ireland store is at CastleCourt in Belfast, and it has other shops in Newry, Craigavon, Derry and Ballymena.

Speaking earlier this month to The Irish News, a spokesperson for Debenhams said no UK stores would close before 2020 as a result of the restructuring process.

The company is yet to reveal the names of which stores will be affected by the cull.

The expected CVA at Debenhams comes just days after chief executive Sergio Bucher announced he is to leave, less than three years after joining the high street retailer.

Debenhams said Mr Bucher’s departure will allow new leadership to oversee the restructuring and turnaround of the business.

Debenahams plunged into administration briefly on April 9 after turning down rescue bids from Mike Ashley's Sports Direct.

The department store chain's new owners - a group of banks and hedge funds, have drafted in advisers from Alvarez & Marsal to lead Debenhams’ restructure.

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