Debenhams confirms plans to shut up to 50 stores

Up to 5,000 jobs are now at risk as the retailer says store closures will take place over the next three to five years.
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Debenhams has confirmed plans to shut up to 50 stores, nearly a third of the UK-wide chain, putting up to 5,000 jobs at risk.

The move comes as the department store also detailed a near £500 million annual loss is it writes off the value of its brand and the cost of unwanted shop leases and IT systems.

The retailer currently has 165 stores and employs 27,000 people. However, it is struggling to adapt as shoppers migrate from the high street towards spending more on leisure activities and online buying.

Debenhams has said the closures would take place over the next three to five years, stating that a greater number of its outlets than it previously admitted, are likely to become unprofitable and will need shutting down.

Sergio Bucher, chief executive, said: “It has been a tough year for retail in 2018 and our performance reflects that. We are taking decisive steps to strengthen Debenhams in a market that remains volatile and challenging.

“Working with our new chief financial officer Rachel Osborne, and the board, I am determined to maintain rigorous cost and capital discipline and to prioritise investment to achieve profitable growth. At the same time, we are taking tough decisions on stores where financial performance is likely to deteriorate over time.

“With a strengthened balance sheet, we will focus investment behind our strategic priorities and ensure that Debenhams has a sustainable and profitable future.”

The 240 year old retailer has already issued three profit warnings this year and has axed a final dividend payout to shareholders, saying it would prioritise cash generation and debt reduction. 

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