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Debenhams at The Grafton centre in Cambridge escapes initial list of store closures

Debenhams has no plans to shut its Cambridge store at The Grafton centre next year but that does not mean it is safe from the axe in future.

The store was omitted from a list, announced by Debenhams today, of 22 nationwide stores expected to close in 2020.

The list comprised of stores at Altrincham, Ashford, Birmingham Fort, Canterbury, Chatham, Eastbourne, Folkestone, Great Yarmouth, Guildford, Kirkcaldy, Orpington, Slough, Southport, Southsea, Staines, Stockton, Walton, Wandsworth, Welwyn Garden City, Wimbledon, Witney, Wolverhampton.

Grafton Centre, Centre Manager John O'Shea with lookng around the new beauty area in Debenhams. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9200506)
Grafton Centre, Centre Manager John O'Shea with lookng around the new beauty area in Debenhams. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9200506)

But further store closures are planned and that means Cambridge could be among them, although the company has not confirmed this.

The Debenhams store at the Grafton underwent refurbishment to introduce its new ‘beauty hall of the future’ concept, upgraded its dining offer and made improvements to the store fit-out.

All Debenhams stores are proposed to remain open during 2019, including through Christmas peak trading.

Further store closures will be confirmed in due course and the final number, say the company, will be dependent on future trading performance; discussions with landlords regarding changes in lease terms and rental levels; and with local authorities regarding business rates.

Around 1,200 people work in the stores affected by the announcement and they were informed of the company’s plans today. They aim is to try and redeploy as many of them as possible.

The shake-up was announced by Debenham Group Holdings today as part of two proposed Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVA) - one relating to its main trading retail section and the other to its property portfolio.

The CVA proposals provide a mechanism to restructure the store estate in line with the plan outlined by management in October 2018 which was to close around 50 of its 166 stores. The first stage of that programme involves the 22 stores named today.

These decisive actions are designed to keep Debenhams on a stable financial footing and ensure the future of the company.

Terry Duddy, executive chairman of Debenhams, said: “The issues facing the UK high street are very well known. Debenhams has a clear strategy and a bright future, but in order for the business to prosper, we need to restructure the group’s store portfolio and its balance sheet, which are not appropriate for today’s much changed retail environment. Our priority is to save as many stores and as many jobs as we can, while making the business fit for the future.”

Debenhams remains in a leading position in cosmetics and skincare, and a top five position in fashion. The group has previously outlined its redesigned strategy which details a smaller UK footprint with better quality stores. Today’s announcement is a key step in delivering that strategy.

The company, which called in administrators earlier this month, insists that the CVA does not seek to compromise claims of any creditors other than certain landlords, local authorities and inter-company liabilities. All trade suppliers and the entitlements of employees will continue to be paid in full during this process.

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