Debenhams in Weymouth NOT on closure list


Published at 12:00pm 26th April 2019.

The Weymouth branch is not one of the 22 stores set to close.

The new owners of Debenhams say they plan to shut up to 50 stores, placing thousands of jobs at risk, as they move to shore up the chain's future.

The company confirmed a story by Sky News when it revealed up to 22 sites would go in the first wave - if creditors backed the so-called Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) that also includes demands for rent reductions across its estate. Weymouth is not one of them.

But it said that it had no plans to close any stores until after Christmas 2019.

The strategy, which is based on the CVA proposal Debenhams set out last year ahead of its collapse, still places thousands of jobs at risk.

The retailer said 1,200 people were employed at the first 22 stores though it hoped to redeploy some of the staff.

The strategy will see almost a third of its 166 sites go as Debenhams looks to bolster profitability by cutting away the most expensive stores.

The stores expected to close in 2020 are: Altrincham, Ashford, Birmingham Fort, Canterbury, Chatham, Eastbourne, Folkestone, Great Yarmouth, Guildford, Kirkcaldy, Orpington, Slough, Southport, Southsea, Staines, Stockton, Walton, Wandsworth, Welwyn Garden City, Wimbledon, Witney, Wolverhampton.

The business has been exposed to the wider crisis facing the high street that has seen weak consumer confidence combine with higher costs from things like rents, wages and business rates.

But it has also failed to get to grips with legacy issues such as being late to the rush for online shopping.

Debenhams also revealed on Friday an update on its financial performance during the six months to 2 March.

The figures showed a 7.4% decline in UK store sales with like for like sales down 5.4% compared to the same period last year.

Group EBITDA, profits before exceptional items, were 36.3% down at £66m.

It is pinning hopes of a recovery on new ranges and a previously announced sourcing partnership with Li & Fung.

However, its plans will be dead in the water without support for the CVA.

At least 75% of creditors - such as landlords - have to give their approval at a meeting on 9 May.

Executive chairman, Terry Duddy, said the chain was taking decisive actions to keep Debenhams on a stable financial footing.

"The issues facing the UK high street are very well known.

"Debenhams has a clear strategy and a bright future, but in order for the business to prosper, we need to restructure the group's store portfolio and its balance sheet, which are not appropriate for today's much changed retail environment.

"Our priority is to save as many stores and as many jobs as we can, while making the business fit for the future," he said.

Its collapse and rise from the ashes under the ownership of its lenders - a collection of banks and hedge funds - sparked a bitter riposte from its largest shareholder Mike Ashley's Sports Direct.

The tycoon, who himself rescued House of Fraser, had submitted a series of alternative plans aimed at shoring up the company under his leadership but was rebuffed.

As he and other stakeholders saw the value of their holdings wiped-out, he declared the failure a "national scandal".

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