Debenhams to start winding down operations - putting 12,000 jobs at risk

  • Video report by ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills

Debenhams is to start winding down its operations after nearly 250-years of trading - putting 12,000 jobs at risk.

The department store chain said it will continue "to seek offers for all or parts of the business" but the future looks bleak after JD Sports - the only interested party - pulled out of rescue talks.

The bleak news for the high street stalwart follows the collapse of Arcadia Group - which owns the department store chain and a number of other high street names.

The combined impact of both the Arcadia collapse and Debenhams closure puts a total of 25,000 jobs on the line.

Geoff Rowley of FRP Advisory, joint administrator to Debenhams and partner at FRP, confirmed a "viable deal" could not be reached with JD Sports to rescue the business.

He said: "All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams.

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"However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached."

Debenhams will continue to trade - in store and online - through its 124 UK stores to clear stock, the group confirmed.

The historic retail chain is now set to close its doors for good. Credit: PA

Mr Rowley added: "The decision to move forward with a closure programme has been carefully assessed and, while we remain hopeful that alternative proposals for the business may yet be received, we deeply regret that circumstances force us to commence this course of action.

"We are very grateful for the efforts of the management team and staff who have worked so hard throughout the most difficult of circumstances to keep the business trading."

Sir Philip Green's Arcadia tumbled into insolvency on Monday evening, casting a shadow over its own 13,000 workers and 444 stores in the UK and 22 overseas.

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The group currently has 9,294 employees on furlough due to the Covid crisis.

The company has cited coronavirus as a reason for its demise, but Arcadia's sales were struggling before lockdown according to ITV News' Economics Editor Joel Hills.

Ministers have voiced their opinion on the collapse of the retail giant.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said he believed there were “miss-steps” that led to high street giant Arcadia going into administration.

While Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government “stands ready” to help workers affected by job losses at Arcadia and Debenhams.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the government remained committed to supporting the retail sector following the news about Debenhams.

He said: “We obviously understand it’s a deeply worrying time for Debenhams’ staff, the employees themselves and their families.

“We obviously stand ready to support them and we remain committed to supporting the retail sector and are working closely with industry during these very challenging times."

JD Sports had been widely considered Debenhams’ best chance of a rescue deal Credit: Nick Ansell/PA

JD Sports had been the last remaining bidder for Debenhams, which has been in administration since April.

In a brief statement to the London Stock Exchange, the company said: "JD Sports Fashion, the leading retailer of sports, fashion and outdoor brands, confirms that discussions with the administrators of Debenhams regarding a potential acquisition of the UK business have now been terminated."

Debenhams has already cut 6,500 jobs across its operation.

The chain was forced into heavy cost-cutting after it entered administration for the second time in 12 months.