May 29, 2020
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Debenhams to cut 1,000+ jobs as 17 stores to shut forever

May 29, 2020

News that Debenhams is cutting even more jobs has turned out to be worse than expected with initial reports of hundreds of job losses being an underestimate. In fact, more than 1,000 HQ and store jobs will go as 17 branches are set to close. 

Photo: Sandra Halliday

The company, which is currently operating in administration, temporarily closed its stores in March as the UK began its lockdown. It will reopen 90 of them on June 15 when non-essential stores are allowed to operate again. 

It has reached agreements with landlords for retaining 120 sites in total out of its current 142. As well as the 17 that are set to close, there’s uncertainty around another five with two Welsh stores reportedly at risk, despite rent deals having been reached, as the local authorities are still enforcing hefty business rates bills.

The confirmed closures include three in Hammerson malls, rather than the five originally expected, with those three being partially converted to the new Next beauty concept. The major branches in Birmingham’s Bullring and Glasgow’s Silverburn had also been expected to shut, with Next moving in, but Debenhams reached a last-minute deal with Hammerson to retain those stores.

The 17 locations that will definitely not reopen after the lockdown include branches in Borehamwood, Clapham, Kidderminster, King’s Lynn, Leamington Spa, Merthyr Tydfil, Rugby, Salisbury, South Shields, Southampton, Stratford-upon-Avon, Swindon, Truro, Westfield London, Croydon, Leicester and Reading.

As we reported on Thursday, some of the 1,000+ job losses will be in merchandising, buying, design and admin at the Debenhams head office with “hundreds” of jobs to go there out of a total HQ workforce of around 3,000. 

It’s all part of a slimmed-down company that hopes to emerge from the retail carnage in better shape.

“In the context of a retail industry undergoing profound change, the management team is working on the future shape of the group, with a view to seeking an exit from administration as a going concern,” a Debenhams spokesman said. “With a leaner and more flexible operating model, Debenhams will have the ability to adapt to what are likely to be fundamental shifts in the future trading environment.”

Unfortunately for the company, however, when its branches reopen, some crucial areas will have to remain closed. Cafes and other services in its stores will be unable to reopen until the UK government gives the green light.

As part of the retailer’s long-running series of turnaround plans in recent years, the company has invested heavily in extra services in sectors such as beauty consultations and eyebrow threading, but anything that requires such close physical contact is off the agenda for now.

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