It has been confirmed this morning that work will begin to wind down the Debenhams department store chain leading to its closure in the new year which will mean the closure of the chain’s Robertson Street store in Hastings.
The 242-year-old business has been struggling for some time and went into administration in April for the second time within a year. In a statement this morning Debenhams said its administrators had not been able to find a “deliverable proposal” to sell the company, and will “commence a wind-down of Debenhams UK, while continuing to seek offers for all or parts of the business”.
JD Sports was close to agreeing a deal for Debenhams at the end of last week but the failure of the Arcadia Group saw JD Sports announce this morning that it had terminated takeover talks. Arcadia’s brands including Top Shop, Wallis, Burtons and Evans are the biggest concession holders inside Debenhams stores and with the income from those concessions now at risk JD Sports had little option but to step away from any deal as the viability of the business was likely to be seriously compromised.
The loss of Debenhams will be a huge blow to Hastings Town Centre. It is expected that like other Debenhams stores the Hastings shop will continue to trade through the Christmas period to clear existing stock.
Geoff Rowley of FRP Advisory, joint administrator to Debenhams and Partner at FRP, said this morning: “All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams. However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.
“The decision to move forward with a closure programme has been carefully assessed and, while we remain hopeful that alternative proposals for the business may yet be received, we deeply regret that circumstances force us to begin this course of action.
“We are very grateful for the efforts of the management team and staff who have worked so hard throughout the most difficult of circumstances to keep the business trading. We would also like to thank the landlords, suppliers and partners who have continued to work with Debenhams through this turbulent period and can reassure them that all contractual obligations entered into in the administration period will be met in full.”
Colin Fitzgerald, Deputy Leader of Hastings Borough Council said this morning: “My main thoughts are with those worried about their jobs at the end of what’s already been a really difficult year. Obviously we wait to see the outcome but stand prepared to work in partnership with others to ensure we do what we can to preserve this iconic building and continue the success of regeneration in our town.”
Meanwhile Councillor Rob Lee who leads the Conservative group on Hastings Council said this afternoon: “This is a sad and devastating loss to our high street and our town in general.
“My thoughts are with those that have lost their jobs and their families. It further adds to the feeling of downgrade that our town centre has after the removal of benches during the summer and the closure of the town centre toilets. I will be requesting a meeting with the Leadership of the Council to see what can be done to ensure that the building itself finds a new use quickly”