Debenhams has reportedly claimed £40.5m of taxpayers’ money through the furlough scheme after it fell into administration. The retailer had lawfully claimed the subsidy from HMRC between April 9 and October 8, and defended its actions saying that it used the hand-out “in exactly the way the scheme was intended, which was to preserve jobs while stores were closed in line with government regulations”.
The news follows the announcement that the 242-year old department store chain had finally collapsed following years of decline which none of its efforts to transform, modernise or return the business to a profitable entity had delivered the desired results. For creditors and employees the future looks bleak. There are 12000 employees affected across a total of 124 stores – in addition to those left high and dry by Debenhams in Ireland, and earlier UK redundancies in its head office.
Debenhams said it would continue to trade through its 124 UK stores and online to clear its current and contracted stocks. Whether this stock also includes merchandise legally owned by its concession holders has not been made clear. Many had already lost significant sums to Debenhams as a result of its most recent CVA which had left the business under the control of its management team. The same team that had thwarted Mike Ashley’s attempted takeover and bid to be elected to its board.