Teetering on the brink? Debenhams owners appoint business closure experts

Virtually every Sunday newspaper is reporting that Debenhams might soon disappear from high streets across the UK, with The Sunday Times summing the situation up in its headline: ‘Debenhams puts liquidators on standby’.

Debenhams owners have appointed advisers, Hilco, who specialise in company liquidations and who have in the past wound up the business activities of high-profile retail businesses including BHS, Woolworths and electronics specialist Maplin.

Hilco has been brought in by the department store’s bosses to draw up contingency plans for a possible liquidation. Debenhams has been in administration – a legal move to protect it from its creditors – since April and recently announced it was looking for a buyer in a deal that would need to be concluded by September – now it seems time might be running out for the company founded in 1813 and for its 14,00 staff.

Closure of the Robertson Street store would have a huge commercial and visual impact on the town. What are the options for the future of the building as there are no obvious big retailers that could fill that void?

In a statement Debenhams said it was ‘trading strongly’ and Hilco’s appointment did not necessarily mean a liquidation was likely. Last week it announced that 2,500 more jobs were to go, this on top of 4,000 job losses it announced in May.

Debenhams filed for administration in April – the second time in a little over a year. Options for the future of the business include the current owners continuing to run it, a sale of Debenhams or a joint venture with new or existing investors.

However if the administrators, FRP Advisory, fail to find a buyer or new investment, Debenhams WILL face liquidation.

A spokesperson for the department store said: “Debenhams is trading strongly, with 124 stores reopened and a healthy cash position.” The retailer began reopening its shops – including the store in Hastings – in June after being closed since lockdown in late March.

The company was struggling before the pandemic, including issuing a string of profit warnings.

If Debenhams was to close what do you think should happen to the premises that it occupies? Have your say in the comment section below.

7 thoughts on “Teetering on the brink? Debenhams owners appoint business closure experts

  1. If it were to close, there would be no retailer big enough to fill it. I would suggest to the landlord dividing it up into lots of smaller shops, keep the cafe as it is. There was a similar building on Kensington High Street until the 90s, where the large building was full of lots of independent stall holders selling a whole host of different wares. As most folk now would rather shop online, rents are too high and also Hastings has far too many shops – to have a large indoor market could work for both new start-ups and smaller shops struggling with high rents could move in there.

    1. Too many shops? I know it’s a seaside town, but honestly feel not that many ‘useful’ high street shops! Maybe its the London effect – I moved from here earlier in the year, and do feel there is a place for a department store -indoor market would be cool though

  2. Who owns the building? It would be sad to see Debenhams go completely, but the Hastings building is hugely out of date as a department store and I’m surprised it’s still open. I hardly ever go there, it’s a complete warren and very claustrophobic. It would need radical alteration for any other purpose and I suspect that flats would be the only way to go for the building.

  3. Sad for the chain and the town, but the store id basically empty anyway – it’s got the content of a small shop weirdly spread out over a few floors. Its a shame for Hastings – It needs a proper big store like that – somewhere to buy ‘higher end’ make up, beauty, skincare stuff, and underwear etc – not a lot in Priory Meadows!

  4. Entirely agree with Ms Gilbert about this building. When was it ever last updated? And yes given the state of the retail world, apartments might be the next step for this place.
    I have always been curious about who owns this building too. Hey, its not HBC is it, one of there secret retail buys we don’t yet know about?

  5. Oh no I love Debenhams was in there just the other day! Please find a way of keeping the administrators at bay!

  6. The RESTAURANT has great potential with independent access , fabulous views
    The ground floor as a retail space ,above nice flats etc ?

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