Troubled retailer Debenhams has said it will permanently close six stores, including its flagship branch on London’s Oxford Street, as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the retail sector. The move will impact 320 jobs.
Geoff Rowley, joint administrator to Debenhams and partner at FRP Advisory, said “inevitably the latest lockdown has had an effect on our plans for the wind-down of the business.”
"We continue to engage with interested parties over alternative proposals for the future of Debenhams,” he added.
Other branches that are shutting include Portsmouth, Staines, Harrogate, Weymouth and Worcester.
Debenhams is in administration. JD Sports (JD.L) had been holding exclusive talks with Debenhams’ owners about a deal but pulled out, possibly because of the collapse of Arcadia, which owns brands that have concessions within Debenhams department stores, including TopShop, Dorothy Perkins, and Miss Selfridge.
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Debenhams, which has 240 stores across 27 countries, said it was unable to agree a lease extension with the landlord of its Oxford Street store.
Debenhams had already axed 6,500 jobs last year — around a third of its staff — and it was expected that more roles could disappear if a buyer can’t be found.
Physical retail has been suffering at the hands of online shopping for years. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and worsened that trend. Shops have been forced to shut during lockdowns, driving more business into the arms of digital players. Online sales have grown from around a fifth of all sales in the UK to a third during the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics.
If the likes Debenhams disappear, then people will have even less reason to go to the shops. It could prompt a doom loop that will be tough to recover from.
It was earlier reported that Debenhams’ online store has stopped taking orders in Ireland for now due to complications and uncertainty linked to Brexit.
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