Wednesday 17 July 2019

Fears grow for Debenhams jobs in Ireland as stores facing axe set to double

Embattled: Debenhams operates 11 outlets in Ireland, including on Dublin’s Henry Street
Embattled: Debenhams operates 11 outlets in Ireland, including on Dublin’s Henry Street
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

More than 1,400 Debenhams workers in Ireland face fresh uncertainty about their jobs after a report that the embattled department store chain is to nearly double the number of outlets it intends to close across the UK and Ireland over the next three to five years.

The 'Daily Telegraph' reported that Debenhams now intends to close as many as 90 of its 165 stores as it struggles in a competitive environment and the worst Christmas performance for retailers in the UK in a decade. It had announced in October that it would shut 50 stores, after reporting a full-year loss of almost £500m (€560m).

Debenhams declined to comment.

However, it's believed that the company is not specifically working on any plan beyond that which it announced in the autumn.

The chain's Irish business entered examinership in 2016, blaming high rents here. That examinership process also saw British billionaire Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, take an unsuccessful tilt at acquiring the Irish operation. Mr Ashley owns almost 30pc of Debenhams. Last week, at the retailer's AGM, he ousted the Debenhams chairman and forced its CEO to quit the board.

In 2016, Sports Direct sealed its €48m acquisition of Irish department store chain Heatons. Last year, Sports Direct acquired House of Fraser in a so-called pre-pack administration.

Debenhams operates 11 outlets in Ireland, in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Tralee, Waterford and Newbridge. It acquired most of its outlets when it bought Roches Stores in 2006.

Debenhams reported sales of €170m in its 2017 financial year in Ireland, but made a pre-tax loss of €246,000 here.

Irish Independent

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