Debenhams takes axe to hundreds of head office workers

Debenhams is set to cut hundreds of head office jobs as it plans to reopen in the UK following lockdown, the department store has confirmed.

The retailer, which is in administration for the second time in a year, plans to open doors again to British customers from June 15 with 90 stores growing to 120 over the summer.

But bosses plan to reopen with a slimmed down head office, which employs around 3,000 people, as staff leave from mechandising, buying, design and HR departments, according to initial reports by Reuters.

Debenhams was already struggling before the lockdown, having fallen into administration on April 9 in a protective measure against creditors demanding their money.

Since the coronavirus pandemic shut all non-food retailers, the department store has announced the permanent closure of 12 stores, with thousands of job losses.

A spokesman said: “In the context of a retail industry undergoing profound change, the management team is working on the future shape of the group, with a view to seeking an exit from administration as a going concern.

With a leaner and more flexible operating model, Debenhams will have the ability to adapt to what are likely to be fundamental shifts in the future trading environment

The company did not confirm exactly how many positions would go, beyond saying in the “hundreds”.

Five of the stores to close were in Hammerson shopping centres, a business with its own financial difficulties, after failing to reach terms on rent.

Bosses are expected to learn the lessons from Debenhams’ Danish stores, trading as Magasin du Nord, which has already reopened following easing of lockdown restrictions in the country.

Protective equipment for colleagues, guidelines to manage changing rooms, queuing systems, shorter hours and fewer services are all understood to be under consideration.

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