The new owners of Debenhams say they plan to shut up to 50 stores, placing thousands of jobs at risk, as they move to shore up the chain’s future.
The company confirmed a story by Sky News when it revealed up to 22 sites would go in the first wave – if creditors backed the so-called Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) that also includes demands for rent reductions across its estate.
The retailer said 1,200 people were employed at the first 22 stores though it hoped to redeploy some of the staff.
At the start of this month, Debenhams, which employs 25,000 people, was put through a pre-pack administration that wiped out shareholders, including Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct. Its new owners, who are a consortium of banks and hedge funds, have launched the major store-closure programme via an insolvency process known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
In March, the indebted chain secured a £200m package of new loans and so far Debenhams’ 166 UK stores have continued to trade as normal. The first tranche of 22 stores will shut after trading through the key Christmas period.
The towns and cities affected by the closures include places such as Ashford in Kent and Kirkcaldy in Scotland, already hit hard by Marks & Spencer’s decision to shut 100 stores.