Debenhams closures a massive body blow to staff and Lancashire shoppers

The news that Debenhams stores will not reopen will come as a body blow to its remaining 12,000 employees.

By David Nowell
Monday, 25th January 2021, 1:48 pm
Debenhams has a site in the Fishergate Centre, Preston
Debenhams has a site in the Fishergate Centre, Preston

Up to now its stores in Preston, Blackpool and Wigan had escaped the axe as others were closed.

Administrators had tried their utmost to save stores and jobs, but in the end Boohoo became the best offer.

There were hopes that the deal may offer "some job opportunities" with Boohoo for Debenhams staff.

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In all three sites, Debenhams is seen as the anchor store in each shopping centre.

The closure of Debenhams in the Fishergate Centre, like the others, will leave a massive hole to be filled when non-essential shops are allowed to reopen by the Government.

It is believed that business and council chiefs were already making plans in case Debenhams did not return.

Now they will have to act.

Mark Whittle, manager of Preston City Centre Business Improvement District, said: "We are very sad to see that Debenhams will no longer be a staple of high streets across the country.

"We sincerely hope that Preston's team members are able to secure new employment as quickly as possible, and would encourage local businesses who are recruiting to contact the BID so we can share your vacancies with store colleagues."

Today shareholders in online fashion retailer Boohoo, which has a Burnley site, appeared to welcome the deal, with shares up four per cent in early trading.

However, Shore Capital retail analyst Greg Lawless warned that an online-only operation could hit Debenhams’ beauty sales.

He said: “The big question in beauty is whether the big beauty brands – Clinique and Channel – will remain with Boohoo longer term.

“The Debenhams number one position in premium beauty was predicated on counter sales, which will not form part of this acquisition.”

Mr Lawless told Sky News he felt that the Debenhams sites would be "re-purposed" and picked up one by one by retailers, depending on where they were situated and what rents were being asked.

Boohoo said it would create the UK’s largest marketplace across fashion, beauty, sport and homeware – expanding the range of products sold via Debenhams marketplace by maintaining current third-party relationships and expanding further.

Debenhams’ own fashion brands will also be absorbed into Boohoo’s current portfolio and sold via the Debenhams website.

Geoff Rowley, joint administrator for Debenhams and partner of FRP Advisory, said: “We are pleased to have secured the future for this great brand, and to have created the opportunity for a new Debenhams-branded business to emerge in a different shape beyond the pandemic.

“I expect that the agreement with Boohoo may provide some job opportunities but we regret that this outcome does not safeguard the jobs of Debenhams’ employees beyond the winding-down period.”