// Debenhams joins fast-growing list of retailers that are temporarily shutting stores amid coronavirus pandemic
// It had previously requested a rent holiday from landlords as its troubled financial state is exacerbated by the crisis
// The decision to close its stores means House of Fraser is the last remaining department store chain to keep its stores open
Debenhams has become the latest major retailer to announce a temporary closure of its stores in a bid to keep staff safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Debenhams, which is currently in the middle of a major restructure via a CVA, said it would close its store estate in the UK and Ireland by close of play today (March 23).
The stores will remain closed until further notice, but customers will still be able to shop at Debenhams via its own ecommerce website.
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“Debenhams has taken the tough decision that due to the current circumstances we will temporarily close our UK and Republic of Ireland stores for trading from close of play today,” the department store said in a statement.
“Throughout these very difficult times, the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers has been of paramount importance.
“Our store colleagues have continued to demonstrate the highest professionalism and commitment and we will be working with them to support them through this process.
“We hope to be able to reopen as soon as is practically and safely possible.
“In the meantime, our UK and ROI customers will continue to be able to shop with us online through www.debenhams.com and www.debenhams.ie.”
Debenhams did not make it clear how they would support affect shop floor staff during the temporary store closures, although it could take the government up on its recently-announced offer to cover up to 80 per cent of wages for any job that has been affected by the pandemic.
Earlier today, news emerged that Debenhams had reportedly written to landlords requesting steeper rent cuts and additional store closures as part of its ongoing CVA, so as to avoid becoming the next retail casualty from the coronavirus crisis.
Separately, Debenhams last week requested for a five-month rent holiday from its landlords due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
The department store fell into administration in April last year and its new owner, a consortium of banks and lenders known as Celine, launched its CVA later the same month.
The CVA included rent cuts of 25 per cent to 50 per cent on some stores and earmarked around 50 stores for closure.
The first tranche of store closures – 22 sites – took place in January, well before the coronavirus outbreak became a pandemic and sent the UK into a state of crisis.
Debenham’s decision to close its stores means House of Fraser is now the last remaining major department store chain to keep its stores open, despite customers keeping away from high streets and shopping centres in record numbers after the pandemic prompted the government to tell Brits to stay home.
Competitors such as John Lewis, Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fenwick and Liberty London have all already temporarily closed their respective store estates.
Debenhams’ temporary store closures follows similar moves from a raft of other retailers – including H&M Group, Primark, Waterstones, Arcadia Group, Inditex, New Look and Edinburgh Woollen Group – even though the government has not yet ordered a lockdown for that sector specifically, as it has done so for the hospitality and leisure sectors.
Full list of retailers (so far) that have temporarily shut their UK high street stores:
- Kurt Geiger
- Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (Jaeger, Austin Reed, Peacocks, Bonmarche, Jane Norman, Ponden Home, Edinburgh Woollen Mill)
- John Lewis
- Arcadia Group (Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Evans)
- New Look
- River Island
- H&M Group (Weekday, Arket, Monki, Cos, H&M Home, & Other Stories, H&M)
- Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Zara Home)
- TK Maxx
- Liberty London
- Harvey Nichols
- The Body Shop
- Michael Kors
- Urban Outfitters
- Oasis and Warehouse
- The British Heart Foundation
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- Calvin Klein
- Sweaty Betty