Debenhams enters administration after coronavirus shutdown with 22,000 jobs at risk

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Debenhams has confirmed it has entered administration, placing question marks over the future of its stores and 22,000 staff.

The firm has appointed administrators from the FRP Advisory to oversee the process, after announcing it had filed a notice of intent to appoint administrators on Monday.

Debenhams’ 142 UK stores remain closed after they were shutdown as part of Government guidance over the coronavirus outbreak.

The company said it will work to “re-open and trade as many stores as possible” when restrictions are lifted.

Debenhams chief executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste said: “In these unprecedented circumstances the appointment of the administrators will protect our business, our employees, and other important stakeholders, so that we are in a position to resume trading from our stores when Government restrictions are lifted.

“We anticipate that our highly supportive owners and lenders will make additional funding available to fund the administration period.”

The department store has been struggling for years

The chain also said it would not be re-opening its business in Ireland after lockdown ended.

“We are desperately sorry not to be able to keep the Irish business operating but are faced with no alternative option in the current environment,” Vansteenkiste said.

“This decision has not been taken lightly and is no way a reflection on our Irish colleagues, whose professionalism and commitment to serving our customers has never been in question.”

The majority of its employees in the UK are currently being paid under the Government’s furlough scheme, after its stores closed following the shutdown of non-essential stores.

Last Apri, Debenhams fell into the hands of its lenders, a group of banks and hedge funds led by US firm Silver Point Capital, after struggling for years to keep up with the competition.

The measures saw rent costs reduced across dozens of branches – and 20 closed permanently.

Last month, the company put the vast majority of its workforce on ‘furlough’, following the closure of its 142 stores across the UK.

All branches in the UK have since shut due to the outbreak – although the website remains open.

Employees’ wages will now be covered for three months by the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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Coronavirus outbreak

Debenhams has already written to landlords to inform them that it requires a five-month rent holiday, while this week it notified suppliers of a 31-day delay to some payments.

The department store operator, which traces its roots to 1778, has been working on a plan to permanently close 50 shops, leaving around 110 as its core estate.

Just over 20 have closed already, leaving 28 more locations to be identified.

We’ve got a full guide on your Debenhams gift card and refund rights, here.

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