Debenhams to Close Up to 50 Stores, Take $660 Million Charge

(Bloomberg) -- Debenhams Plc took a one-time charge of 512 million pounds ($660 million) and will close as many as 50 stores as the British department-store chain struggles to avoid a collapse.

Key Insights

  • Department stores like Debenhams have been particularly hard hit by the shift to e-commerce, leaving the retailers with costly real estate and fewer customers. Survival will depend on Debenhams’s ability to make its footprint smaller and its remaining stores more attractive to shoppers.
  • Christmas could be make-or-break for Debenhams. Last year the company sold less than expected as competitors discounted early. Unseasonably warm weather this summer and fall has already taken a bite out of the profits of other U.K. retailers.
  • Chief Executive Officer Sergio Bucher, who came from Amazon.com Inc. in 2016, has his work cut out for him in steering the retailer into the digital age. The company said online sales growth slowed slightly to 12 percent.

Market Reaction
  • The stock surged after an initial dip in London trading Thursday, up as much as 20 percent to 10.23 pence. It was up 12 percent at 9:05 a.m. Shares had been down about 75 percent this year, having closed below 10 pence since Sept. 24.

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