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Debenhams threatens to keep its Welsh stores closed

Lauretta Roberts
24 April 2020

Debenhams has threatened to keep its stores in Wales shut after lockdown unless the Welsh Government offers rate relief on its stores in line with the UK Government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak offered all retail and hospitality businesses a year-long rates holiday to help them through the COVID-19 crisis. The Welsh Government initially said it would match the offer but has since said it would not be offering relief to businesses in properties with a rateable value of £500,000 or more.

Debenhams wrote to the Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans to say that the decision imperils its stores in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Wrexham and Llandudno.

The BBC has seen the letter from Debenhams chairman Mark Gifford, which says: "It is deeply regrettable that, by electing to take a different approach to that taken elsewhere in the UK, you have made it economically unviable for us to continue trading the majority of our Welsh business.

"You have failed to understand the situation, where Debenhams Retail Limited is in administration and will cease to pay business rates unless it chooses to reopen its stores in Wales.

"It will be unable to reopen its stores unless you reverse your decision."

It is believed that Debenhams pays £2.35m in business rates in Wales with the Cardiff store alone costing £1.1m in rates.

Debenhams was placed into administration for the second time in a year earlier this month but the company said it had reached agreements to keep 120 of its 142 stores open with seven due to close. At the time it said it was in negotiations to retain the remaining stores.

The formerly listed department store chain was placed into administration last year and acquired by a consortium of its investors, Celine Jersey Topco. In January of this year, it closed 19 stores permanently.

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