Debenhams could be set to bring forward store closure programme to this year

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Department store chain Debenhams could bring forward a closure programme of its stores at risk this year, according to reports.

The BBC is claiming that the retailer is exploring a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) and is in talks with its banks to increase borrowings ahead of a quarterly rent payment which is due on March 25.

Debenhams has stores in the Fishergate Centre in Preston and Hounds Hill Blackpool

Debenhams has stores in the Fishergate Centre in Preston and Hounds Hill Blackpool

Debenhams is understood to be close to reaching its existing £520m borrowing facilities.

It is the latest of a number of retailers to have been hit by a slowdown in spending and a change in consumer habits. House of Fraser, Mothercare, HMV and New Look are some of the big names to have suffered in 2018.

Debenhams has stores in the Fishergate Centre in Preston and Hounds Hill Blackpool, where they are the anchor stores, as well as Manchester’s Market Street and in the Liverpool One shopping centre. None of those stores were on the 'at risk' list.

Entering into a CVA would allow the firm to renegotiate rental rates with landlords, as well as speed up plans to shut shops.

Last October Debenhams confirmed that it would increase store closure plans from 10 locations to 50, which would put up to 4,000 jobs at risk. It proposed to carry out its closure programme over three to five years.

But a CVA would mean its closure plans could be accelerated and up to 20 stores could shut this year.

Debenhams has 165 stores and employs around 25,000 people.

The group reported a record pre-tax loss of £491.5m last year and more recently said sales had fallen sharply over Christmas.

Debenhams declined to comment.