Belfast Telegraph

Debenhams: Rent row could have seen five stores axed

By Dearbhail McDonald and John Mulligan

Debenhams was prepared to close as many as five of its 11 outlets in the Republic unless it secured adequate rent reductions as part of a deal for its Irish arm to exit examinership.

The Irish unit of the UK chain was placed in examinership in May amid spiralling losses, as it blamed high rents and staff costs for its predicament. The examinership also exposed a fractious relationship between Debenhams and the Roche family, which is among the retailer's landlords in Ireland, controlling two prime premises in Dublin and Cork.

The Roche family sold their eponymous department store chain to Debenhams in 2006 for €29m (£25m). Debenhams also owns six department stores in Northern Ireland - run as part of its United Kingdom business.

Debenhams group treasurer Mike Hazell had told the High Court that the retailer's Irish unit has paid the €94m (£81m) on the two prime leases in Dublin and Cork to the Roche family since 2006, but also "substantial rent" on five other outlets which have now been sold by the Roches.

And while three outlets were at particular risk of being closed, it's understood that Debenhams was prepared to shut as many as five stores unless it could secure the rent reductions it needed.Debenhams employs 1,400 people directly in the Republic, 500 of them full-time. Another 800 work at the stores at concessions and make-up counters.

It said on Friday that 98 of its workers will take voluntary redundancy .

Debenhams Retail (Ireland) had sales of €166m last year, but has lost €22.6m over the last three years.

Belfast Telegraph