Debenhams’s entire workforce prepared for the worst as firm calls in liquidators

Debenhams has signalled it could be going bust after calling in liquidation experts to draft plans on how to move the department store chain forward amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

At 242 years old, the company has survived two World Wars, the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the Cold War, and multiple global recessions – but fears have been sparked the COVID-19 pandemic could force the business into closure.

Sky News has reported that the iconic department store chain has appointed Hilco Capital to draft contingency plans should an attempt to sell off the business fail.

Debenhams announced in April that they were going into administration, but the new move raises fears the business will completely collapse – putting 14,000 jobs at risk.

Bosses announced earlier in the week that they would be axing 2,500 jobs in an effort to manage costs while taking “all necessary steps” to make the business a viable purchase for rivals or investors.

More than 4,000 jobs had already been axed by the chain since the pandemic struck.

A spokesperson for the chain told Sky News: "Debenhams is trading strongly, with 124 stores reopened and a healthy cash position.

"As a result, and as previously stated, the administrators of Debenhams Retail Ltd have initiated a process to assess ways for the business to exit its protective administration.

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"The administrators have appointed advisors to help them assess the full range of possible outcomes which include the current owners retaining the business, potential new joint venture arrangements (with existing and potential new investors) or a sale to a third party."

Reports have suggested owners are hoping to secure and complete a sales deal by the end of next month – with the intention of securing a future for the brand ahead of the pre-Christmas trading period.

The business was founded in 1778 by William Clarke with a store opening on 44 Wigmore Street in London – before partner William Debenham joined the business in 1813.

Over the decades, the chain expanded to include hundreds of stores across the UK and other parts of the world and owns a department store chain named Magasin du Nord in Denmark.

The coronavirus crisis has caused major issues for businesses on the High Street and beyond.

Fellow department store John Lewis, the restaurant chain Byron Burger and airline Virgin Atlantic are among the businesses that have warned of major staff cutbacks as they struggle to balance the books without consumers being available to shop and travel during the lockdown.

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