Published: 10:30, 01 December 2020
| Updated: 14:52, 01 December 2020
Staff working at Debenhams stores are reeling at news the company is to be wound down, putting 12,000 jobs at risk.
Debenhams will continue to trade through its 124 UK stores and online to clear stock.
The doors were closed at the Gravesend branch in New Road this morning due to lockdown restrictions, although it looked as though some staff were inside preparing for re-opening tomorrow. One person could be seen putting the final touches to a Christmas store front display.
The rest of the team appeared to be having a meeting on the shop floor. It is understood, although it hasn't been confirmed, they have been told the store won't close until March.
FRP Advisory said the decision came after it had considered various options.
Those options included a sale of all – or part – of the UK business, a further restructure of Debenhams’ operations to go forward on a standalone basis, or the orderly wind-down of the firm.
A sale option fell through and the firm said today that given the current trading environment and the likely prolonged effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the outlook for a restructure was "highly uncertain".
Administrators had therefore decided they should start winding-down Debenhams in the UK, while continuing to seek offers for all or parts of the business.
Debenhams will continue to trade through its 124 UK stores and online to clear its current and contracted stocks. After that, if no alternative offers have been received, the UK operations will close.
Geoff Rowley of FRP Advisory, joint administrator to Debenhams and Partner at FRP, said: “All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams.
"However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached. The decision to move forward with a closure programme has been carefully assessed and, while we remain hopeful that alternative proposals for the business may yet be received, we deeply regret that circumstances force us to commence this course of action.
“We are very grateful for the efforts of the management team and staff who have worked so hard throughout the most difficult of circumstances to keep the business trading.
"We would also like to thank the landlords, suppliers and partners who have continued to work with Debenhams through this turbulent period and can reassure them that all contractual obligations entered into in the administration period will be met in full.”
The company had had a troubled year, with other Kent stores closing back in January.
Sarah Payne, who used to work at the Gravesend branch, said: "It's heartbreaking really, I used to work there and I still see the same faces when I go in.
"It was such a nice place to work, I love the shop and it will be sorely missed.
"I just wonder what's going to happen with the high street – there's barely anything left."