Debenhams has announced it will close 22 of its stores around the UK, putting 1,200 jobs at risk, in another blow to the struggling British High Street.
The ailing retail chain, which has 166 stores and employs 25,000 people, has been in trouble for months, with debts of £640million.
It has issued three profit warnings over the last year and went into administration last month.
The retailer has previously said it plans to close up to 50 stores, but today revealed the first 22 branches on the hit list – with more expected to come.
Debenhams has announced it will close 22 of its stores around the UK, putting 1,200 jobs at risk. Today is the first time the ailing High Street chain has announced which branches are shutting (labelled)
The list of Debenhams stores closing includes Folkestone, Kent (pictured)
Another of the stores earmarked for closure is this one in Staines, Surrey
Debenhams has previously said it will close 50 stores, but have only named 22 today. The list also includes the Guildford branch in Surrey
Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley (pictured) put in a £200million offer for Debenhams but had the bid rejected
Is YOUR local Debenhams closing?
The Debenhams stores due to close are:
Welwyn Garden City
The business was taken over by lenders earlier this month in a process designed to keep shops open at the expense of shareholders.
They rejected a £200million bid from Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley, which he branded a ‘national disgrace’.
Stores earmarked for closure are: 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.
The GMB Union described today’s news as ‘devastating’.
Gary Carter, GMB national officer, said: ‘Although many will not be surprised by the closure announcements, this is devastating news for Debenhams employees who have battled hard to keep the company afloat.
‘They will join the tens of thousands of retail workers made redundant in recent months.
He added: ‘It’s about time this Government stopped bickering over Brexit and did something to stem retail job losses and reinvigorate Britain’s high streets.’
The group has announced a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which will see the affected shops continue trading until early 2020.
Further closures could still be announced following discussions with landlords. Meanwhile rent reductions will be sought on many of the remaining branches.
Terry Duddy, executive chairman of Debenhams, said: ‘The issues facing the UK high street are very well known.
A sign was put on the door of Debenhams’s branch in Southsea, Hampshire to tell customers it would be opening late due to a ‘colleague meeting’. Today’s announcement means the store will close and all employees risk losing their jobs
Retail bosses say the closure of 22 stores will begin in 2020. Welwyn Garden City is another set to shut
What do Debenhams store closures mean for YOUR gift vouchers?
Debenhams is still trading, which means that online and in-store gift vouchers are still valid.
But consumer experts are warning people to spend them sooner rather than later, as they may become invalid once closures begin.
Experts warn people planning to make purchases of more than £100 at Debenhams to pay on a credit card so they are protected if the firm is unable to honour orders later on.
This gives shoppers the protection of Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.
Section 75 gives the consumer a right to claim against the lender in circumstances such as misrepresentation or a breach of contract by the supplier.
‘Debenhams has a clear strategy and a bright future, but in order for the business to prosper, we need to restructure the group’s 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.’
Jim Tucker, a senior restructuring partner at KPMG, said: ‘Today’s announcement marks the next phase of Debenhams’ financial and operational restructuring strategy, following the comprehensive funding package announced at the end of March.
‘If approved, and with the support of lenders and landlords, the CVAs will allow the business the flexibility to implement its turnaround strategy with a store estate that reflects the current UK retail environment.’
Debenhams also released a financial update for the 26 weeks to March 2, showing that sales at its UK stores declined by 7.4 per cent during the period due to weaker footfall.
Underlying earnings declined by 36.6 per cent to £65.9 million.
Debenhams Canterbury in Kent is another branch that will close next year
Bloodbath on the High Street: How shops in the UK went from bustling to bust
2018 saw one of the worst years for the UK High Street with retailers shutting their doors and plaguing homes across the country with many job losses.
Crisis hit brands such as House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer fought to keep stores open while other retailers such as New Look pushed for a solution to stop store closures and job losses.
In 2018 nearly 85,000 retail jobs were lost in the UK as businesses continued to go bust as 1,000 retail business went into administration between January and September.
As well as this the number of retail outlets left empty was up by 4,400 in 2018 according to data from the Local Data Company.
High Street giant Gap has also announced it will close 230 stores worldwide as its US parent company launches a massive restructuring programme.
The pressure on High Street retailers has hit an all-time high as they continue to try and keep up with the ever growing popularity of online shopping.
Online retailers are able to keep prices low as they don’t face the massive rental costs of physical stores or the staff rates.
While retailers battle the rise in online shopping they are also being forced to battle Brexit, as many supply chain routes and whether or not they will be available in a no-deal scenario have put added cost worries onto retailers as many consider stock piling their items or not importing them at all.
Here are some of the big name retailers which have lost out as they face fierce competition from the rise of online shopping
The carpet retailer is closing 92 stores across the UK. These closures represent nearly a quarter of all UK Carpetright stores.
Toys R’ Us
The UK’s largest toy shop went into administration in February 2018, leading to an estimated 2,000 redundancies.
House of Fraser
The department store chain was on the verge of heading into administration but was rescued at the eleventh hour by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley.
The electronics giant has gone bust, closing shops across the country and putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The baby and toddler chain is closing 60 shops across the UK putting up to 900 jobs at risk.
Poundworld announced it was going into administration on June 11 after talks with potential buyer R Capital broke down, putting 5,100 jobs at risk.
The DIY chain set to close 42 DIY outlets shut, putting around 1,500 jobs at risk.
Marks & Spencer
The retailer announced in May it plans to close 100 stores by 2022, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
In August stores in Northampton, Falkirk, Kettering, Newmarket, New Mersey Speke, Stockton and Walsall all ceased trading.
Orla Kiely, the Irish fashion retailer collapsed in September and closed all its stores after a slump in profits.
In December HMV entered into administration with its flagship London Oxford Street having closed earlier this year.
Fashion brand L.Bennett announced it was filing for administration on March 1, 2019. Linda Bennett sent employees an email early in the morning to inform them of the news before it hit news outlets.