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Debenhams to cut 320 jobs as retailer drops store managers

Laura Onita
Trouble in store: jobs are likely to go in all of its outlets including Oxford Street: Ki Price/Reuters

Hundreds of jobs are at risk at struggling department store chain Debenhams, the Standard can reveal.

The company is axing 320 jobs in its 176 shops by the end of March to keep a lid on costs. Debenhams is the latest retailer to ditch a layer of in-store management as part of its £10 million cost-saving plan announced last month. London stores, including at Oxford Circus and Westfield, could be affected.

The move comes after the retailer posted disappointing Christmas sales and issued a profit warning, sparking fresh concerns about the chances of its turnaround. Chief executive Sergio Bucher, who joined the retailer in 2016, said he was considering closing 10 stores over the next five years.

Debenhams will try to move staff to new roles where possible, employees were told yesterday. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons recently said they were considering cutting thousands of managerial jobs to shake up the way their stores are run.

Debenhams said: “A review has identified significant cost savings by reducing the complexity of management roles in stores as well as processes to optimise and standardise ways of working.

“We are at present consulting with individuals affected and will seek redeployment opportunities where possible.”

Bucher is pinning his hopes on beauty bars and tie-ups with the likes of Costa Coffee to lure more shoppers to its stores, but critics believe more is needed.

Ratings agency Moody’s downgraded the fashion group in January, four notches below investment grade, warning its finances could deteriorate more than previously thought.

Same-store sales at home were down 2.6% in the 17 weeks to December 30. Pre-tax profit for the year is expected to fall between £55 million and £65 million, below the City’s £83 million forecast.

Debenhams’ debt bill hit £276 million last year and analysts predict it will increase this year.