Debenhams, the struggling UK department store chain, has announced the permanent closure of four additional stores as it continues to face financial difficulties. The stores in Swindon, Southampton, Borehamwood, and Kidderminster will be closing, resulting in the loss of 239 jobs. This follows the recent closure of several other branches in South Shields, Leamington Spa, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Salisbury, Truro, Westfield London, and Warrington.

Originally, Debenhams planned to close 22 stores in January with an additional 28 closures expected in the following year. However, the implementation of the UK lockdown and the closure of all 142 Debenhams stores has expedited the closure program. Alongside these store closures, Debenhams has also confirmed that its 11 shops in Ireland will permanently shut down.

Debenhams has expressed concerns that it may be forced to close its stores in Wales permanently if the devolved Welsh government does not reconsider its stance on business rates. While the UK government has granted a business rates holiday to all retailers for a year, the Welsh government initially implemented a similar measure but later changed the criteria for eligible businesses, impacting Debenhams’ largest Welsh stores. The chairman of Debenhams, Mark Gifford, has stated that this decision puts the viability of these stores at risk.

Debenhams has emphasized that it is currently in administration and will not pay business rates for its Welsh stores unless it decides to reopen them. The closure of these stores adds to Debenhams’ ongoing struggles, which have been exacerbated by declining sales and high levels of debt in recent years. The company is exploring various options, such as mergers or acquisitions, to secure its future. However, the closure of more stores and the uncertainty surrounding the Welsh government’s business rates relief present significant challenges.

The retail industry as a whole is facing unprecedented challenges, and Debenhams’ store closures and job losses highlight the urgent need for innovative solutions and government support to preserve the future of the UK retail sector. It remains to be seen how Debenhams and other struggling retailers will navigate these uncertain times.

Useful Links:
1. BBC: Debenhams to close six shops with loss of 320 jobs
2. The Guardian: Debenhams to close remaining stores, putting 12,000 jobs at risk