// Debenhams to begin reopening UK stores from next week
// 3 stores with street access will open in Northern Ireland on June 8, including the Belfast flagship
// A further 50 stores will reopen in England on June 15, as per government guidance
Debenhams has announced it will open three Northern Ireland stores next week, ahead of the June 15 date for when lockdown restrictions will be eased for non-essential retailers.
The department store chain said the three stores in question in Northern Ireland all have street access, including the Belfast flagship, and they will reopen on June 8.
Debenhams said its two remaining stores in Northern Ireland would then open “shortly thereafter”.
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The retailer also confirmed plans to reopen 50 stores in England from June 15, “with the rest to follow later in the week”.
This is a slight change to the update Debenhams provided last week, when it said it would open 90 stores in England on June 15, after the UK Government confirmed that as the date for when lockdown restrictions on non-essential stores will be lifted.
The stores in Northern Ireland are able to open a week earlier after its government said shops selling goods like electrical and homeware products could reopen but only if they have an outside door which opens onto the street or into the open air in a retail park.
A full list of the locations of Debenhams stores that are part of the initial reopen phase is at the bottom of this article.
Debenhams said preparations for reopening were “well under way”, with strict social distancing and hygiene procedures being implemented across all stores in adherence with the latest government guidance and instruction.
The department store chain added that its stores in Scotland and Wales will reopen once government restrictions allow.
Last week it said that another 30 of its stores will reopen over summer – pending ongoing discussions with landlords.
“We are delighted to be welcoming customers back to our stores in the coming weeks,” Debenhams managing director Steven Cook said.
“From the installation of perspex screens at till points to the roll-out of social distancing procedures and PPE, we have been working hard to ensure our colleagues and customers can work and shop with confidence.
“Our reopening plans follow the successful conclusion of lease negotiations on 120 stores, meaning that the vast majority of our stores will be reopening.”
The news comes after it emerged last week that Debenhams chief executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste had stepped down from his position but would continue to work for the department store chain as a consultant.
Vansteenkiste is thought to be in the process of making the long-trailed transition from chief executive back to consultant now that Debenhams’ stores are set to exit lockdown.
As consultant, he would be advising chairman Mark Gifford as he steers Debenhams into the next phase of its turnaround.
In April, Debenhams fell into administration for the second time within a year as a protective measure against creditors demanding their money amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With Vansteenkiste stepping aside, it is understood that Debenhams’ day-to-day operations will be led by administrators from FRP Advisory along with existing the executive team, including Cook and chief financial officer Mike Hazell.
Debenhams’ reopening strategy also comes with plans to cut hundreds of jobs from its head office – which employs around 3000 people – across the mechandising, buying, design and HR departments, according to initial reports by Reuters.
The retailer did not confirm exactly how many positions would go, beyond saying in the “hundreds”.
Debenhams’ has also previously confirmed that 17 of its stores currently in lockdown would not reopen and be closed for good, with thousands of job losses estimated as a result.
Stores reopening in Northern Ireland on June 8:
Stores reopening in England on June 15:
- Bury St Edmunds
- Westwood Cross
- York Monks Cross