Any lingering hopes that the Debenhams store in Robertson Street might be saved have gone with the news this morning that the Debenhams brand has been bought by online retailer Boohoo.
The billionaire owner of Boohoo has pledged to take on the might of Amazon and paid £55million for the Debenhams name – but crucially not the stores – and will relaunch the department store as an online-only operation from next year. It means 12,000 jobs including dozens in Hastings will go.
All Debenhams’ stores will close for good as part of a structured winding down of the business – spelling the end of the brand on the high street after 242 years.
For Boohoo it is another step into the mainstream for the company owned by Mahmud Kamani who is one of three British billionaire businessmen battling for control of what remains of Sir Philip Green’s retail empire.
Mr Kamani, worth £1billion, is fighting with online rival ASOS, run by Scotland’s richest man Anders Holch Povlsen, worth £6.1billion, for the purchase of the Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge brands in what would be one of the biggest shake-ups of the British retail landscape in decades.
The Blackburn-born billionaire brothers Zuber and Mohsin Issa, who made their £3.56billion from petrol stations and recently bought the supermarket chain Asda, have also been locked in secret talks to buy Topshop.
Mr Kamani said this morning: “Our acquisition of the Debenhams brand is strategically significant as it represents a huge step which accelerates our ambition to be a leader, not just in fashion eCommerce, but in new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”
The business said it would create the UK’s largest marketplace across fashion, beauty, sport and homeware – expanding the range of products sold via Debenhams marketplace by maintaining current third party relationships and expanding further.
The purchase of the Debenhams brand ends more than two centuries on the British high street. The brand started a liquidation process last month after failing to secure a last-minute rescue sale with JD Sports.