The Irish arm of Debenhams has been placed in administration after store staff were told they had lost their jobs.
The company said it expected a liquidator to be appointed to the 11-store operation here.
It said it employed 950 in Ireland, with a further 300 working for in-store concession partners.
However, the Mandate trade union said liquidation would mean the loss of almost 2,000 jobs across the country.
Debenhams was already strugg-ling at the onset of the coronavirus crisis.
It said the majority of its Irish stores were not expected to re-open, but that decision would now be in the hands of a liquidator, who is expected to be appointed next week.
Irish staff were informed of the move by email yesterday. With the chain shut as a result of Covid 19, most had already been temporarily laid-off.
Stefaan Vansteenkiste, chief executive of Debenhams, confirmed the decision.
“We are desperately sorry not to be able to keep the Irish business operating but are faced with no option in the current environment,” he said.
“This decision has not been taken lightly and is no way a reflection on our Irish colleagues, whose professionalism and commitment to serving our customers has never been in question.
“The colleagues have been placed on temporary lay-
off under the Irish Government’s payment support schemes for employers, and we will be working with them to support them through this process.”
Debenhams Ireland’s biggest creditor is its UK parent, which was taken over last year by its own creditors.
The Roche family, who sold the Roches Stores chain to Debenhams, are the landlords for the bulk of the Irish outlets.
The company’s most recently filed accounts showed turnover in 2018 was close to £170m (€194m), but the company made a loss for the year of £4.7m (€5.35m) in Ireland, even after an examinership process in 2016 that had cut rents.
While the news is a huge blow to retail, consultant Eddie Shanahan believes it is not the end of the high street.
“The high street as we knew it is not gone. It will be different, but it is not gone,” he said. “We don’t know how different yet.
“There will have to be rules around social distancing and in 12 months or thereabouts there’s a strong likelihood we will have some form of vaccine and then that will bring us closer again to where we once were.
“Retail will be multi-channel, and if you don’t have a trading website, you’re not a real retailer.”