Chelmsford department store at threat of closing

One of Chelmsford’s only department stores is at threat of closing after reporting an annual loss.

Debenhams, which had said it was planning to close ten stores, will now look to close upto 50 stores.

In the year to September the department store group lost £491.5m, against profits of £59m the year before.

Boss Sergio Bucher said the company was “taking tough decisions” on stores where financial performance was unlikely to improve over time.

The BBC reports that around 4,000 jobs could be affected, although it is understood that some of these are people who would have left the company anyway.

The chain fell into loss by exceptional write-downs of £512.4m, as a result of store and lease provisions,

Mr Bucher told the BBC that despite the annual loss, Debenhams remains a profitable business: “As we said in September, we generated £160m of operating cash, we generated £33m in profit before tax.

“The loss is basically an accounting adjustment to allow us to deal with legacy issues. We’re cleaning up our balance sheet to be fit for the future.”

The pressures on UK High Streets have been hitting the headlines as a result of an increase in online shopping.

Debenhams’ rival department store chain House of Fraser was bought out of administration by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct earlier this month. Meanwhile, Marks and Spencer and Mothercare have recently announced branch closures.

The retailer has not yet released a list of the stores at risk of closure.

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