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Debenhams goes into administration – what it means for online orders, returns and gift cards

Department store chain Debenhams has fallen into administration for the second time in a year – though the company will continue to trade online and says it aims to "reopen and trade as many stores as possible" once restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted.

Debenhams has 142 UK stores, which are currently closed in line with Government guidance. It also has 22,000 employees, most of whom are currently on furlough - and whose jobs could sadly be at risk in future if stores remain closed. 

Advisory firm FRP has been appointed to oversee the administration, which is what happens when an external firm is called in to run the company. Appointing administrators means Debenhams will be protected from legal action from its creditors, which could have threatened to push it into liquidation while its stores are shut. 

It's the second time in 12 months that Debenhams has appointed administrators – its administration in April 2019 resulted in 22 stores being permanently closed.

Debenhams is the latest in a string of firms to go into administration in recent weeks, including rent-to-own retailer Brighthouse and restaurant chain Carluccio's. For general tips on your rights in this situation, see our Administration Help guide.

Outstanding orders and returns WILL be honoured

Debenhams is still trading online across the UK, and the firm says all outstanding orders and returns will continue to be processed as usual.

The retailer is still accepting returns of online orders by post. According to its website, it will also be accepting late returns of items bought online or in-store up to 14 days after stores reopen, though it's not entirely clear when items must have been bought by for this to apply. See more info on the Debenhams website.

If you make a new purchase from Debenhams now, you may want to use a debit card, or a credit card if the purchase costs over £100.

This will give you some extra protection, as you'll be able to make a claim from your card provider via the Section 75 or chargeback schemes if something goes wrong.

Gift cards WILL still be accepted – though be careful

Debenhams says its gift cards are still being accepted as usual, so you should be able to keep using them.

But remember that with any gift card, you've little protection if things go wrong – so it's always wise to spend them sooner rather than later. When firms go into administration there's often an increased risk of gift cards becoming worthless, so it's best not to take any chances.

What does Debenhams say?

The firm's chief executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste said: "In these unprecedented circumstances, the appointment of the administrators will protect our business, our employees, and other important stakeholders, so that we are in a position to resume trading from our stores when Government restrictions are lifted.

"We anticipate that our highly-supportive owners and lenders will make additional funding available to fund the administration period."

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