Coronavirus: Debenhams to axe five stores with loss of 1,000 jobs

Debenhams is to shut five stores after failing to reach agreement with its landlords over rent, resulting in 1,000 job losses.

It means the sites at shopping centres in Reading, Croydon, Birmingham, Leicester and Glasgow Silverburn owned by property giant Hammerson will not reopen after the lockdown.

The beleaguered chain was already in administration but has been seeking to renegotiate terms with the owners of its 142 UK sites as the coronavirus resulted in stores being forced to shut their doors.

Last month, it agreed a deal with some landlords to secure the future of 120 sites but the five Hammerson locations were not included.

Of the remainder, ten more shops – employing a total of 600 – have also now been earmarked for closure, while the future of seven still hangs in the balance.

Debehhams said in a statement: “We can confirm that despite our best efforts, we have been unable to agree terms with Hammerson on our five stores in its shopping centres, and so they will not be reopening.

“We continue to engage in constructive talks with our landlords and have agreed terms on the vast majority of our stores, which we look forward to reopening when government restrictions allow”.

Debenhams, which currently employs just over 20,000 people, has weathered a succession of crises in recent years.

An attempt by the Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley to take control of the business last year ended when it entered an insolvency process before being taken over by a consortium of lenders.

Last month it formally entered into administration for the second time in a year and announced that its Irish business, with 11 stores, would permanently cease trading.

The latest administration was designed to protect the business from creditors at a time when stores were shuttered because of the lockdown – though Debenhams continued to trade online.

Chief executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste said at the time that it aimed to be “in a position to resume trading from our stores when government restrictions are lifted”.

But since then it has been confirmed that a total of 15 stores, including those that were part of the latest talks, will not reopen.

The ten – other than those announced as a result of the impasse with Hammerson – that face closure are: Truro, Stratford-upon-Avon, Salisbury, Westfield, Leamington Spa, South Shields, Swindon, Kidderminster, Borehamwood, Southampton.

Britain’s retail sector has been shattered by the coronavirus lockdown, with figures last week showing a “historic” fall in sales.

Last week saw the confirmation that 1,800 jobs were to go at the group behind Oasis and Warehouse after a deal that saved the brands as online concerns but will see all of its stores close.

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