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Debenhams to be wound down, 12,000 jobs at risk

Embattled department store chain Debenhams is to be wound down, placing 12,000 jobs at risk, after talks with JD Sports over a potential rescue deal failed.

The business will continue to trade through its 124 UK stores, as well as online. If it does not receive any alternative offers from potential buyers, however, it confirmed that UK operations will close.

In a statement Debenhams said it comes after it said its sales process, which it started back in April, has not resulted in a “deliverable proposal”.

It added that given the current trading environment and the “likely prolonged” effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the outlook for a restructured operation is “highly uncertain”.

While administrators confirmed they will begin a wind-down of the department store chain, they will “continue to seek offers for all or parts of the business”.

Geoff Rowley, joint administrator and partner at FRP Advisory, said: “All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams. However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.

“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.”

He added: “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.

“We would also like to thank the landlords, suppliers and partners who have continued to work with Debenhams through this turbulent period and can reassure them that all contractual obligations entered into in the administration period will be met in full.”

It comes as JD Sports earlier confirmed it had pulled out of rescue deal talks for Debenhams (1 December).

The sports retailer was said to have been closing in on a deal up until the end of last week and was the firm’s last remaining bidder.

Retail juggernaut Arcadia’s collapse is believed to have been a factor in the company’s decision making, as Arcadia was the biggest concession operator in the department store chain.

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