Debenhams, once a British high street darling, will go into liquidation and 12. Endanger 000 jobs.
Since the ailing department store first entered administration in 2019, administrators have tried to negotiate a rescue plan to save thousands of jobs and allow the company to continue operations. But hours after Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group – one of Debenhams’ largest concessionaires – collapsed into administration, lead contender JD Sports withdrew its offer.
In a statement, Debenhams said the administrators would « start winding up Debenhams UK and continue to look for offers for all or part of the company ». . It would endeavor to sell any remaining inventory and eventually close 124 stores.
This latest blow to the UK retail sector is one of the most dramatic implosions in a year in which economic devastation has not been neglected. Even so, Debenhams entered 2020 in possibly worse shape than some of his strained counterparts.
In April, the retailer filed for its second administration in 12 months. In 2019, during its first round of restructuring, Debenhams cut its workforce by about half and wiped out shareholders, a failure that Mike Direct CEO Mike Ashley described as a « national tragedy ». .
He wasn’t exactly exaggerating. For much of its 250-year history, Debenhams has been the business with the golden touch. The company was founded in 1778 when William Clark opened a shop on London’s Wigmore Street selling expensive fabrics, hoods, gloves and parasols. At the beginning of the 19th. Expanded in the 18th century after it was invested by a certain William Debenham.
With a second store in Cheltenham and a monopoly on Victorian fashions for family mourning – the time when widows and other female relatives adhered to a very strict dress code after a death months or even years after a death – the brand grew fast.
At the beginning of the 20th. In the early 1900s, Debenhams was one of the UK’s major retailers and even bought Harvey Nichols in 1919. In the 1950s it was the largest department store in the British Isles with 110 stores – these were the days when Debenham’s sales in the country’s city centers sparked a rush and the police were called in to check the thousands of crowds outside gathered waiting for the doors to open.
In the sixties, seventies and eighties Debenhams boomed thanks to its own brand collections that picked up the aesthetic every decade, be it tank dresses, bell bottoms, sheepskin coats or heavy shoulder pads and tweed skirt suits. Outside London in particular, women of all ages wore the brand – and while none of their wares would be confused with a French import or a piece bought from Biba, they were stylish nonetheless.
Debenhams also pioneered the designer collaborations that have proven such benefits for companies like H&M and Uniqlo. In 1993, Debenhams launched a Philip Treacy hat collection – one of the designs made it into Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Then there was BDL by Ben De Lisi for evening wear and J by Jasper Conran – the latter one of the biggest design names of the decade, launching a large line of womenswear for debenhams with suits and elegant day wear. John Rocha later joined the team with a collection of daywear.
More recently, Debenhams has attracted London Fashion Week talents including Preen from Thornton Bregazzi and Richard Quinn to collections. But chaotic store environments and a lack of publicity meant that the collections did not show the expected enthusiasm.
JD Sports is said to have been most interested in the Debenhams property – an attraction that is undoubtedly less compelling given the expected spike in road closures and distressed landlords.
But Debenhams has other attractions that might appeal to a brave investor. The private label brands for apparel brands such as Principles, Maine and Mantaray generate nearly £ 100 million annually and the stores welcome 19 million customers in the UK – including six million regular beauty shoppers. It remains to be seen if anyone will see these assets as the foundation on which to rebuild Debenhams into a brand well worth standing in line again.
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World News – UK – How Debenhams shaped our clothes
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