Can Debenhams store in Ipswich be saved from threat of liquidation?
- Credit: JUDY RIMMER
Concern is growing about the future of Debenhams stores across the region after it emerged that the administrators of the company are set to engage a liquidation specialist to look at options for the firm.
But councillors and business leaders in Ipswich are confident that the store in the town will survive if the troubled retailer is saved by its administrators.
Officials in the town have been told that of the 124 Debenhams stores across the country, the Ipswich store is the 14th most profitable – and its landlord has already reviewed the rent twice in a bid to encourage the store to stay at its prime site on the Cornhill.
Ipswich Borough Council has been talking to Debenhams and its landlord in a bid to find a way to guarantee its long-term presence in the town and is confident that if the chain does survive the Ipswich store will stay open – but the fact that restructuring firm Hilco Capital has been appointed to work on “contingency plans” with the retailer in the event that a sales process for the well-known British high street brand fails has triggered alarm bells in the town.
Debenhams, which employs 14,000 staff across the UK, collapsed into administration four months ago and announced plans to axe 2,500 jobs throughout its stores and warehouses earlier this week.
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A source close to the company said administrators were required to have liquidators on standby “in the unlikely event that all other options for the business do not materialise”.
A spokesman for the retailer said: “Debenhams is trading strongly, with 124 stores reopened and a healthy cash position. As a result, and as previously stated, the administrators of Debenhams Retail Ltd have initiated a process to assess ways for the business to exit its protective administration.
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“The administrators have appointed advisers to help them assess the full range of possible outcomes which include the current owners retaining the business, potential new joint venture arrangements (with existing and potential new investors), or a sale to a third party.”
Hundreds of jobs have already been lost at the retailer since the start of lockdown after it permanently shut 18 stores – and 500 former staff are trying to launch a court case, claiming they were not properly consulted over the loss of their jobs.