At least seven Debenhams department stores will not reopen after the high street lockdown eases, resulting in the loss of more than 400 jobs.
The department store, which collapsed into administration last week, is understood to be exiting the seven stores, including in Salisbury, Westfield in west London, Leamington Spa, and South Shields, as it has been unable to reach agreement with landlords.
Deals have been struck regarding 120 of the chain’s 142 sites, which leaves the future of a further 15 outlets hanging in the balance.
All Debenhams’ stores closed temporarily on 23 March along with most of the rest of the high street after the government ordered a lockdown on non-essential retail in order to control the spread of coronavirus.
The shutdown has prompted fears that thousands of stores will never reopen as many already weak retail firms – which had been suffering from rising costs, the switch to online shopping and weak consumer confidence – struggle to cope with the loss of high street trade.
Debenhams, which has fallen into administration for the second time in a year, had already closed 22 stores as part of an attempt to rescue the business by its new owners, who are led by the US hedge funds Silver Point and GoldenTree. A further 28 were expected to close next year but it is clear those plans have been accelerated.
Stefaan Vansteenkiste, the chief executive of Debenhams, who is continuing to run the business in administration, said: “We have agreed terms on the vast majority of our UK stores and talks are proceeding positively on the remainder, positioning us to reopen these stores when government regulations permit.
“Regrettably we have been unable to reach agreement on seven stores and these will not be reopening, and I’d like to express my thanks to our colleagues in these stores at what I know is a difficult time for everyone.”