Department store chain Debenhams is to liquidate its operations in Ireland and close all its stores.
The company wrote to staff members in Ireland this morning saying it will make an application for Debenhams Retail (Ireland) to be placed into liquidation under the Companies Act 2014. It is anticipated the application will be made and a provisional liquidator will be appointed next week.
Debenhams operated 11 stores in Ireland, four in Dublin, two in Cork and stores in Newbridge, Galway, Limerick, Tralee and Waterford.
"In these unprecedented times, Debenhams is having to make exceptionally difficult decisions," the company said in an email to staff.
"Unfortunately, our Irish business has had trading challenges which were exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19. In the UK, Debenhams has entered into administration in order to protect its business. Regrettably, due to the challenges facing Debenhams Retail (Ireland) Ltd, it is anticipated that an application will be made to appoint a liquidator to the Irish operations."
"As you know Debenhams has already suspended trading in the Republic of Ireland stores and we can confirm that these stores are not expected to reopen. "
"In ordinary circumstances, communication about this process would have been done face to face, however, due to the Pandemic you are receiving this message via email, and we apologise for that."
The history of Debenhams in Ireland goes back to 1901 when the iconic Roches Stores brand began with the foundation of a furniture shop in Cork by William Roche. In 1919 he bought the landmark London House building on St Patrick’s Street and by 1927 it was the biggest department store in the country and the first of 11 shops in the Roches Stores empire.
In 2006, the UK department store chain Debenhams took over the leasehold of 11 Roches Stores outlets as it increased its presence in Ireland.
Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, the Debenhams chain was facing financial difficulties and plans were in train to close a number of UK stores. Despite the liquidation announced today, Debenhams said its online store will remain open for Irish customers.
The Mandate trade union which represents a number of the Debenhams workers in Ireland said the news has come as a massive shock to its members.
John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary, said they will be seeking a meeting with the liquidator when they are appointed and demanding that staff are prioritised throughout the liquidation process.”
Stefaan Vansteenkiste, CEO of Debenhams, said: “We are desperately sorry not to be able to keep the Irish business operating but are faced with no alternative option in the current environment. This decision has not been taken lightly and is no way a reflection on our Irish colleagues, whose professionalism and commitment to serving our customers has never been in question. The colleagues have been placed on temporary lay-off under the Irish Government’s payment support schemes for employers and we will be working with them to support them through this process.”