In April 2020, Debenhams fell into administration for the second time in a year – the first collapse was in April 2019.
Last year, after administrators were called in, Debenhams had agreed to a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), with its landlords, in an effort to cut costs to save the business. Under the CVA, Debenhams was required to close 22 stores in January 2020, with a further 28 closures planned for 2021.
Debenhams had 142 stores still operating at the beginning of April 2020; however, the retailer was forced to call in administrators once again last month, amid the outbreak of Covid-19.
While Debenhams is still trading online, all sites remain closed in-line with the Government’s UK-wide lockdown and most staff have been furloughed as part of the Government's coronavirus job protection scheme. However, reaching an agreement with landlords is critical to securing the future of the business, and ensuring that as many sites as possible can reopen their doors once ‘non-essential’ stores are given the green light
The Guardian has reported that Debenhams has been busy striking deals with landlords to keep the majority of its stores open. Since the coronavirus lockdown it has written to landlords asking for a five-month rent holiday and written to its suppliers to inform them they would be getting their money a month later than expected as it seeks to conserve cash.
And, while the retailer has reported that it has been able to come to an agreement with landlords for most of its branches, it has emerged that some of its stores will not reopen after lockdown measures are lifted.
Most recently, the department chain announced that five stores located in shopping centres owned by Hammerson would not reopen after lockdown measures were lifted. These stores are: Bullring in Birmingham; Centrale in Croydon; Highcross in Leicester; Silverburn in Glasgow; The Oracle in Reading.
The news of these latest closures came as Hammerson’s deal to sell its retail parks to the private equity firm Orion collapsed.
These permanent store closures join all Ireland-based Debenhams branches (the Irish chain includes four branches in Dublin and two in Cork), as well as: Borehamwood; Kidderminster; Leamington Spa; Salisbury; South Shields; Southampton; Stratford-upon-Avon; Swindon; Truro; Warrington; Westfield, West London.