It’s all over for Debenhams as liquidators appointed

Debenhams store
A Debenhams store in Harrogate, Britain. Image: Reuters/Lee Smith

British department store retailer Debenhams is to be liquidated after failing to find a buyer, administrators FRP Advisory announced on Tuesday.

FRP will commence a wind-down of the business, which was founded back in 1778, spelling the end of 12,000 jobs, mainly in the UK. It has 124 stores there and in Denmark, where it owns Magasin du Nord.

However, the liquidator said it would continue to seek offers for all or parts of the business during the process.

The collapse comes a day after Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group was placed in administration.

Debenhams was first placed in administration on April 9 last year in a pre-pack administration which resulted in 22 stores being closed and rent reductions secured for many more. A second administration came exactly 12 months later this year.

Efforts to find a suitor have been underway for eight months, with the most recent being JD Sports which quit rescue talks on Tuesday following the demise of Arcadia.

According to its website, Debenhams operated 45 stores under licensing agreements in 17 countries including Malaysia, the Philippines and Pakistan in Asia. An earlier foray into Vietnam failed.

The remainder of the franchises are in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, with the first franchise opened in Bahrain in 1997.

In a statement, FRP said 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.

“The administrators have therefore regretfully concluded that they should commence a wind-down of Debenhams UK, whilst continuing to seek offers for all or parts of the business.”

Trading will continue at UK stores and online to clear current and contracted stocks.

“On conclusion of this process, if no alternative offers have been received, the UK operations will close,” said FRP.

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