Debenhams adds 2,500 to virus crisis job loss tally

Debenhams has announced plans to cut a further 2,500 jobs as the retail sector reels from the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

The chain, which was already struggling from weak sales before COVID-19 forced its store estate into hibernation in March, said it was taking the action as part of efforts to ensure the business had “every chance of a viable future.”

The company had previously announced in May that it would not be reopening five of its stores, with 1,000 members of staff affected.

Debenhams had taken a decision in May not to re-open five UK stores after lockdown restrictions were eased

Other measures included a decision in April to exit Ireland with the loss of 1,200 workers.

Debenhams confirmed its latest decision meant it had cut around 6,500 jobs so far this year in total – a third of its workforce.

Its statement on Tuesday – released just hours after the latest UK employment figures were revealed – said: “We have successfully reopened 124 stores, post-lockdown, and these are currently trading ahead of management expectations.

“At the same time, the trading environment is clearly a long way from returning to normal and we have to ensure our store costs are aligned with realistic expectations.

Those colleagues affected by redundancy have been informed and we are very grateful to them for their service and commitment to Debenhams.

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“Such difficult decisions are being taken by many retailers right now, and we will continue to take all necessary steps to give Debenhams every chance of a viable future.”

The company said a management restructuring process would account for some of the losses, including the scrapping of sales manager, visual merchandise manager and selling support manager roles.

Its announcement builds on a steady bleeding of high street jobs that has seen direct competitors including John Lewis and M&S also hit.

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Debenhams has weathered a succession of crises in recent years.

An attempt by the Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley to take control of the business last year ended when it entered an insolvency process before being taken over by a consortium of lenders.

Last month it formally entered administration for the second time in a year and announced that its Irish business, with 11 stores, would permanently cease trading.

The latest administration was designed to protect Debenhams from creditors at a time when stores were shuttered because of the lockdown – though Debenhams continued to trade online.