Staff at Oxford’s doomed department store Debenhams got their Christmas windows ready for one last shopping frenzy as lockdown ends.

But after a proud history of serving customers on the Magdalen Street site it looks like this festive shopping period will be its last.

The chain is to be liquidated, putting 12,000 jobs on the line and it is understood it will trade until the current stock is cleared.

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The news came after it emerged 13,000 staff of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group face an anxious wait following the business collapsing into administration.

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A month-long lockdown for inessential shops and pubs and restaurants is to end tomorrow.

The Debenhams announcement comes a year after historic department store Boswells said it was to close.

One trader in Oxford, who asked not to be named, said: “A friend of mine works on the Clinique counter and she says they will be there until Christmas and then that’s it - it’s such a shame.”

Debenhams has traded on the site since taking over from Elliston & Cavell in 1975.

College bursar Lynn Johnson said she would be sorry to see Debenhams go.

She added: “I have shopped there for clothes, shoes, make-up hardware - it's a real shame.

“Not everyone is a fan of the Westgate Centre and I preferred to shop at Debenhams or Boswells - it was a real blow when Boswells shut.”

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Ms Johnson said Debenhams had not focused enough on building sales online.

Oxford Mail:


The news of Debenhams’ collapse came after it emerged 13,000 staff at Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group face an anxious wait following the business collapsing into administration.

The 12,000 jobs at Debenhams’ 124 stores are set to go over the coming months unless the administrators do a deal for all or parts of the business as the process unfolds.

It is understood staff were told on Tuesday morning.

Debenhams outlets will continue to accept the firm’s store cards and process returns as normal.

Hilco, the restructuring firm which specialises in winding up retailers, will start going into stores on Wednesday to begin clearing stock.

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Arcadia, which includes the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, has hired Deloitte to handle the next steps after the pandemic “severely impacted” sales across its brands.

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Many of Arcadia’s staff worked at its brands’ concessions in Debenhams, which is itself hoping for a rescue deal after sliding into insolvency earlier this year.

Arcadia, which runs 444 stores in the UK and 22 overseas, said 9,294 employees are currently on furlough.

No redundancies have yet been announced as a result of the appointment and stores will continue to trade, the administrators said, with many due to reopen on Wednesday when England’s lockdown is lifted.

Ian Grabiner, chief executive of Arcadia, said: “This is an incredibly sad day for all of our colleagues as well as our suppliers and our many other stakeholders.

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“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the forced closure of our stores for prolonged periods, has severely impacted on trading across all of our brands.

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“Throughout this immensely challenging time our priority has been to protect jobs and preserve the financial stability of the group in the hope that we could ride out the pandemic and come out fighting on the other side.

“Ultimately, however, in the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe.”

Retail trade union Usdaw has said it is seeking urgent meetings with Arcadia’s administrators in a bid to preserve jobs.

Dave Gill, Usdaw national officer, said: “We are seeking urgent meetings and need assurances on what efforts are being made to save jobs, the plan for stores to continue trading and the funding of the pension scheme.

“In the meantime, we are providing our members with the support and advice they need at this very difficult time.”