Debenhams, long a staple of the British high street, has a history stretching back more than two centuries.

The high street giant has unveiled plans to axe up to 50 shops, putting around 4,000 jobs at risk, as profits plunged at the struggling department store chain.

Here is a look back at the key moments in Debenhams' growth and decline.

  • 1778

William Clark opens a drapers store selling expensive fabrics and accessories in London’s West End.

  • 1813

William Debenham invests in Clark’s firm and it becomes Clark and Debenham. It opens its first shop outside the capital five years later in Cheltenham.

  • 1905

Following decades of business acquisitions from retail to manufacturing, Debenhams Ltd is incorporated.

  • 1920

The business purchases retailer Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge.

Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge Credit: Nick Ansell/PA
  • 1928

Debenhams becomes a public company after the Debenham family ends its involvement in the business.

  • 1950

The retailer becomes the largest department store in the UK, owning 84 companies and 110 outlets.

  • 2013

After decades of growth, sales start to slide and the company announces a profit warning, amounting to a 26% plunge.


Of Debenhams shares drop after sales start to slide.

  • January 2014

Simon Herrick, the company’s chief financial officer, resigns after the profits warning.

  • January 2015

A curb on promotions boosts Christmas sales for Debenhams, but fails to stave off questions about its turnaround plans.

  • October 2015

Michael Sharp, the company’s chief executive, announces he will be stepping down amid shareholder pressure for a boardroom shake-up. It comes as Debenhams enjoys its first rise in annual profits for four years, up 2.9% in underlying pre-tax profits.

Michael Sharp Credit: Debenhams/PA
  • May 2016

Amazon Fashion boss Sergio Bucher is confirmed as Debenham’s new chief executive.

  • October 2016

The challenges facing Mr Bucher are laid bare when a slump in full-year profits is reported, down 10.4% before tax.

  • April 2017

Debenhams reveals plans to put 10 stores under review and says it is closing 11 warehouses, including one of its major distribution centres employing 220 staff.

  • October 2017

The retailer reports a collapse in annual pre-tax profits, tanking 44% to £59 million in the year to September 2.

  • January 2018

Further turbulence is disclosed, with Debenhams saying UK like-for-like sales tumbled 2.6% in the 17 weeks to December 30, with overall group sales down 1.8%.

Amazon Fashion boss Sergio Bucher was confirmed as Debenham’s new chief executive in May 2016. Credit: Debenhams/PA
  • February

It is announced 320 store management roles are to be slashed.

  • April

A half-year profits plunge of nearly 85% is revealed, with pre-tax profits falling from £87.8 million to just £13.5 million over the 26 weeks to March 3.

Sales took a major hit during the final days of the trading period when bad weather forced Debenhams to temporarily close around 100 stores.

  • June

Debenhams issues its third profit warning of the year.

  • August

The retailer announces it is to swing the axe on up to 90 staff as it enters redundancy talks with hundreds of workers at its fashion and home departments.

  • October

Shares plunge 17% after KPMG is called in to help draft emergency plans to save the high-street giant.

Plans are unveiled for 50 shops to be closed, threatening 4,000 jobs.