Debenhams, one of Britain’s biggest department store chains with more than two centuries of history, is set to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic after rescue-deal talks ended in failure.
The retailer, which went into administration in April for the second time in a year, announced on Tuesday that it is going to start the “wind-down of Debenhams UK.” The company is still looking for buyers for all or parts of the business, but if no offer emerges, it will close all 124 stores across the country, possibly next year, leaving 12,000 jobs hanging in the balance.
“The economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached,” joint administrator at FRP Advisory, Geoff Rowley, said in the statement.
Debenhams was previously involved in talks over a potential acquisition with JD Sports. The negotiations were terminated shortly after Arcadia – Debenhams’ major supplier and the owner of Topshop – collapsed into administration on Monday, a move equivalent to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. Arcadia employs 13,000 people across the UK at its 450 stores.
The demise of the two large retailers is threatening to wipe out some 25,000 jobs at a time when the UK labor market and the entire economy are still reeling from the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment in Britain hit its highest level in four years in the third quarter of 2020, with the jobless rate rising to 4.8 percent, up 0.9 percent from the same period a year earlier.
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