COVID-19: Debenhams reveals six stores – including flagship Oxford Street branch – will not reopen after lockdown | Business News

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Debenhams has revealed that six of its stores will not reopen, with 320 jobs to be affected.

The department store chain said its administrator FRP Advisory is still in talks with “a number of third parties regarding the sale of all or parts of the business”.

However, plans are going ahead for the winding down announced last month.

Employees at stores in Portsmouth, Staines, Harrogate, Weymouth and Worcester, have been told these stores will not reopen after the end of coronavirus restrictions.

Debenhams also said it had been unable to agree a lease extension with the landlord of its Oxford Street store in central London and, as a result, this store would also remain closed.

Geoff Rowley, joint administrator to Debenhams and partner at FRP Advisory, said: “We continue to engage with interested parties over alternative proposals for the future of Debenhams, but inevitably the latest lockdown has had an effect on our plans for the wind-down of the business.

“We regret the impact on those colleagues affected by today’s announcement and would like to thank all those who continue to keep the business trading in very difficult circumstances.”

The insolvency firm said it still intends to reopen as many stores as possible to sell off stock, despite coronavirus restrictions keeping non-essential retailers shut.

The chain is also continuing to sell stock online.

The 242-year-old department store started a liquidation process last month after failing to secure a last-minute rescue sale.

Debenhams has been in administration since April last year but its problems pre-date the coronavirus crisis that has hurt so many high street retailers.

For much of its history, Debenhams was highly profitable and was an established anchor tenant on many UK high streets and shopping centres.

In the 1950s, Debenhams had 110 stores, making it the country’s largest department store group.

It listed on the London stock market for the third time in 2006, following a spell in private equity ownership that proved lucrative for CVC Capital Partners and TPG but which left its balance sheet saddled with what proved to be unsustainable debts.

And while customers increasingly moved their shopping online, Debenhams was opening new stores as recently as 2017 and its large physical presence came with high costs – rising rents, business rates and maintenance.

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