By Isabel Togoh
Retailer Debenhams has announced it will axe up to 50 of its stores, with 4,000 employees at risk of losing their job.
The group said the closures will take place over a three to five year period amid a “volatile and changing” market.
The announcement follows dire financial losses for the company, which boasts almost 200 stores across the UK and internationally.
Debenhams suffered a £491.5 million loss in the year to September 1 after being hit by a £512.4 million reduction in the value of its assets, largely caused by store and lease provisions, IT costs and impairment charges.
The figures are a drastic departure from a profit of £59 million last year.
Chief executive Sergio Bucher said: “It has been a tough year for retail in 2018 and our performance reflects that. We are taking decisive steps to strengthen Debenhams in a market that remains volatile and challenging.
“We are taking tough decisions on stores where financial performance is likely to deteriorate over time.”
He added: “Debenhams remains a strong and trusted brand with 19 million customers shopping with us over the past year. With a strengthened balance sheet, we will focus investment behind our strategic priorities and ensure that Debenhams has a sustainable and profitable future.”
The store closures will bring the Debenhams estate down to about 100 and come on top of 10 earmarked earlier this year.
As part of the shake-up, Mr Bucher will look to take £130 million of costs out of the business, including suspending the dividend.
Sales for the year also slipped 1.8% to £2.9 billion while like-for-like revenue fell 2.3%.
It comes as a raft of retailers including New Look, Carpetright and Mothercare also embark on store closures programmes.
To compound matters, Debenhams is also the subject of takeover talk, with speculation building that Mike Ashley is set to merge it with his newly-acquired House of Fraser.
Mr Ashley owns just under 30% of Debenhams, close to the threshold at which he must launch an official takeover bid.