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Debenhams to close 22 stores early next year

Struggling department store chain Debenhams announced it will close 22 stores early next year as part of a company voluntary arrangement to reduce debt and return the group to profit.

The 22 stores are only the first wave of store closures, as the company said it intends to close 50 of its worst-performing stores.

The locations of the first 22 shops to close have been revealed, putting about 1200 jobs at risk, but the department store has yet to specify the remaining 28 stores that will be shut down.

Greenlit Brands (formerly Pepkor South East Asia), which operates the Debenhams store in Melbourne, said it remains business as usual for the retailer in Australia.

“Greenlit Brands continues to monitor the situation, to understand the impact of the administration to our arrangements with Debenhams UK. It remains business as usual for Debenhams Australia regardless,” a spokesperson for Greenlit Brands said to Inside Retail.

Priority is to save stores and jobs

Currently in administration and without a CEO, Debenhams said the closures will help the company save millions of pounds a year.

Terry Duddy, Debenhams executive chair, said the issues facing the UK high street are very well known and in order for their business to prosper, it needs to restructure the store portfolio and its balance sheet, which are not appropriate for today’s much changed retail environment.

“Our priority is to save as many stores and as many jobs as we can, while making the business fit for the future,” Duddy said.

Sofie Willmott, senior retail analyst at GlobalData, said although Debenhams has been slow to react to the changing retail landscape as spend shifts online, culling branches now will mean it can invest in its remaining portfolio and roll out its new format.

Willmott said that despite the company’s major cost cutting mission, it was still able to make improvements to its flagship branches in Oxford Street and Intu Lakeside, enhancing the look and feel of the locations, adding elements to give more prominence to food and services.

However, Willmott said, a more enticing store environment alone will not solve all of Debenhams’ problems and the company must revitalise its product offer if it is to win shoppers back.

“With consumers putting off non-essential purchases, products need to feel like ‘must-haves’ to convince shoppers to buy,” she said.

“Focusing on exclusive brands and collaborations, following in John Lewis’ footsteps, will give Debenhams a point of difference which will help combat the threat of online pureplays such as Amazon and Asos with their ever-growing product ranges.”

Debenhams plc, the top holding company of the struggling UK department store chain, went into administration about three weeks ago, with lenders taking control of the company after it rejected a last-minute offer of financial support from its largest shareholder, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct.

The high-street stalwart appointed FTI Consulting as administrators on April 9, after which its operating subsidiaries were immediately sold to Celine Newco I Limited, an entity controlled by its lenders.

Below is a list of the 22 stores that will be closed early next year:

Altrincham

Ashford

Birmingham Fort

Canterbury

Chatham

Eastbourne

Folkestone

Great Yarmouth

Guildford

Kirkcaldy

Orpington

Slough

Southport

Southsea

Staines

Stockton

Walton

Wandsworth

Welwyn Garden City

Wimbledon

Witney

Wolverhampton

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