DEBENHAMS in Oxford is now even more likely to close after the department store chain went into administration.

In February the chain announced it was in talks with its banks after struggling financially and said it could close 20 of its 166 stores across the UK by the end of the year, putting 1,600 jobs at risk.

Oxford Mail:

But the threat to the store on the corner of Magdalen Street and George Street has more than doubled after the high street legend went into administration this week, prompting plans to close about 50 stores. The locations have not yet been announced.

READ MORE: What's changing in Oxford city centre

Shopping at the Magdalen Street branch today was Mike McNulty, 70, a former mayor of Didcot.

READ AGAIN: Debenhams in administration after rejecting Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley's bid

He was there with his grandson Liam McNulty, and spent £25 on a tweed Racing Green waistcoat.

Oxford Mail:

Mr McNulty said: “It would be devastating if Debenhams closed in Oxford - I come here quite often, although I have to admit I shop more online.

Oxford Mail:

“I hope Debenhams doesn’t close in Oxford - it will be very bad news for this end of Cornmarket, which is suffering because of the Westgate Centre.

“We visited the Ashmolean as well but when we heard the news we came to Debenhams to show our support.”

READ AGAIN: Debenhams' 20 stores to go but will Oxford be one of them?

Debenhams, which has 166 stores and employs 25,000 people has been struggling for a number of months, with debts of £640m and three profit warnings issued last year.

Oxford Mail:

It has also announced plans for about 50 stores to close in the next couple of years, with the outcome of this to be decided by rent costs and negotiations with landlords.

READ MORE: Lorries in Cornmarket for £36m Jesus College shops

It is understood that as part of the deal, Debenhams bosses will also renegotiate rents with landlords to help tackle funding problems.

FTI Consulting has been appointed to carry out the process but the firm insisted that stores will continue to trade as normal.

Oxford Mail:

Administrators have sold the group to a newly-incorporated company controlled by Debenhams’ lenders, including hedge funds thought to include Alcentra, Angelo Gordon and Silver Point Capital.

Chairman Terry Duddy said: “It is disappointing to reach a conclusion that will result in no value for our equity holders.

“However, this transaction will allow Debenhams to continue trading as normal; access the funding we need; and proceed with executing our turnaround plans.

‘We remain focused on protecting as many stores and jobs as possible, consistent with establishing a sustainable store portfolio in line with our previous guidance.”

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct had made a £200m revised rescue offer for Debenhams but this was rejected.

Oxfordshire-based retail expert Keith Slater said he believed Debenhams in Oxford and its branch in Witney were profitable and as a result should have a good chance of staying open.

He added: “It’s true to say the chance of Debenhams closing in Oxford has now increased. It would be extremely bad for Cornmarket if Debenhams shut because it would reduce the incentive for shoppers to visit that part of the city centre.

“It must be very nervous times for the staff.”