Debenhams timeline: History of a high street giant as store closures announced following Boohoo purchase

Today it has been announced that online retailer Boohoo has bought Debenhams in a multi-million pound deal.

Monday, 25th January 2021, 10:24 am
Updated Monday, 25th January 2021, 11:08 am

The deal for the Debenhams' brand and website is worth £55 million, but won't include the stores or staff.

Debenhams products could be sold by Boohoo from early next year, allowing enough time for liquidators to continue closing the retailer’s sites once they are allowed to reopen after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Now after more than 200 years on the nation's high street, it's time for a change in direction for the brand.

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Pedestrians walk past the Debenhams flagship store on Oxford Street

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Here is the history of the company:

- 1813 - William Debenham invests in Clark's firm and it becomes Clark and Debenham. It opens its first shop outside the capital five years later in Cheltenham.

- 1905 - Following decades of business acquisitions from retail to manufacturing, Debenhams Ltd is incorporated.

- 1920 - The business purchases retailer Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge.

- 1928 - Debenhams becomes a public company after the Debenham family ends its involvement in the business.

- 1950 - The retailer becomes the largest department store in the UK, owning 84 companies and 110 outlets.

- 2013 - After decades of growth, sales start to slide and the company announces a profit warning, amounting to a 26% plunge. Shares drop 12%.

- January 2014 - Simon Herrick, the company's chief financial officer, resigns after the profits warning.

- January 2015 - A curb on promotions boosts Christmas sales for Debenhams, but fails to stave off questions about its turnaround plans.

- October 2015 - Michael Sharp, the company's chief executive, announces he will be stepping down amid shareholder pressure for a boardroom shake-up. It comes as Debenhams enjoys its first rise in annual profits for four years, up 2.9% in underlying pre-tax profits.

- May 2016 - Amazon Fashion boss Sergio Bucher is confirmed as Debenham's new chief executive.

- October 2016 - The challenges facing Mr Bucher are laid bare when a slump in full-year profits is reported, down 10.4% before tax.

- April 2017 - Debenhams reveals plans to put 10 stores under review and says it is closing 11 warehouses, including one of its major distribution centres employing 220 staff.

- October 2017 - The retailer reports a collapse in annual pre-tax profits, tanking 44% to £59 million in the year to September 2.

- January 2018 - Further turbulence is disclosed, with Debenhams saying UK like-for-like sales tumbled 2.6% in the 17 weeks to December 30, with overall group sales down 1.8%.

- February 2018 - It is announced 320 store management roles are to be slashed.

- April - A half-year profits plunge of nearly 85% is revealed, with pre-tax profits falling from £87.8 million to just £13.5 million over the 26 weeks to March 3. Sales took a major hit during the final days of the trading period when bad weather forced Debenhams to temporarily close around 100 stores.

- August 2018 - The retailer announces it is to swing the axe on up to 90 staff as it enters redundancy talks with hundreds of workers at its fashion and home departments.

- October 2018 - Shares plunge 17% after KPMG is called in to help draft emergency plans to save the high-street giant. Plans are unveiled for 50 shops to be closed, threatening 4,000 jobs.

- April 2019 - Debenhams falls into administration after a revised bid to save the ailing retailer Mike Ashley's Sports Direct was refused by lenders.

- April 2020 - Seven store closures announced across the UK, with Blackpool and Preston's shops spared.

- December 2020 - Debenhams starts the liquidation process after JD Sports pulls out of rescue talks.

- January 2021 - Online retailer Boohoo buys the Debenhams brand and website in a deal worth £55m.