Debenhams set to close – your gift card and refund rights explained
Debenhams' 124 UK stores are set to close by early next year if it can't find a last-minute buyer. It's been in administration since April but JD Sports, which was the last remaining bidder for it, has now pulled out of talks. If you're a customer, we've full help below - for the latest on Arcadia Group going into administration, which was announced separately on Monday, see our Topshop, Burton etc help.
Debenhams will continue to trade both in-store and online while it looks for a new buyer to take on some or all of the business. If no offers are received, Debenhams' UK business will close for good, with this likely to take place by March 2021.
As far as shoppers are concerned, Debenhams says right now it's still business as usual, with gift cards and online orders still being honoured, and returns still accepted. Stores in England will reopen again on Wednesday (2 December) following lockdown. But when firms are closing down, things can change fast, so we've full help below.
The beleaguered high street stalwart, which opened its first store in 1778, has already cut 6,500 jobs since it entered administration earlier this year for the second time in 12 months. But a further 12,000 jobs are sadly now at risk as a result of today's news, although no redundancies have been announced yet. See our Redundancy Help guide for more on your rights.
Debenhams says gift cards will continue to be accepted for now. But given the business is winding down, you should aim to spend any gift cards or vouchers as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we'd caution against buying any new gift cards. We've long said we're not fans of gift cards or vouchers because you've no guaranteed protection if the company is in administration. Administrators can decide to stop accepting gift cards in this situation, meaning they can become worthless.
For general info on what you can do to try to reclaim cash from a firm in administration if things were to go wrong, see our Administration Help guide.
Debenhams says all existing orders will be honoured and will be sent out as normal.
It also says you can continue to place online orders. However it's important to bear in mind that when a firm is in administration and closing down things can change quickly and there's more of a risk of things not turning up, so if you do decide to make an online purchase, for extra peace of mind use a debit card, or a credit card if the item costs over £100.
That will give you some additional protection if things were to go wrong, as you could try to claim your money back from your card provider, under chargeback or Section 75 rules. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim your money back from it.
Under chargeback – which isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise – your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from. (Be aware that even if you're paid the money, the firm can sometimes dispute it with the bank and the money may later be clawed back.) See our Chargeback and Section 75 guides for full info., and it says you can continue to place online orders,
Debenhams says it is still accepting returns based on its usual T&Cs at the moment.
If you do have something you want to take back though, it's worth doing so as soon as possible – this is a good general rule in any case, but particularly applies here given the current uncertainty.
I've got a Debenhams credit card - will it still work?
Debenhams has one credit card, which will continue to work for now, although the retailer says it will give more information on this as the situation becomes clearer.
In the meantime, you can continue to manage your account, view transactions and make payments through the Debenhams card app, its online account manager, and through the automated phone service.
But one thing that has changed is that from 1 December, shoppers will no longer earn reward points - although any points earned before 1 December, above the value of £2, can still be redeemed towards purchases.
Previously, if you used the card in participating Debenhams stores or on its website you were awarded three points for every £1 spent. Points were then turned into vouchers you could use on purchases in Debenhams, at a rate of £1 for every 100 points collected. Given Debenhams is on the brink of closure it's best to use any vouchers saved as soon as possible - and in store is likely to be safer than purchasing online.
I've got an insurance product with Debenhams - is it still valid?
If you have car, pet, travel or gadget insurance with Debenhams you will continue to be covered, even after it's closed down.
That's because the insurance is underwritten by a third party, so Debenhams says it's unaffected by the liquidation process.
But what Debenhams doesn't know at this stage is whether you'll be able to renew your existing policy when it expires, or if it will be renewed automatically. So it's worth keeping an eye on your policy as it approaches the renewal date, and as always, checking if you can switch and save. See our Insurance section for more help.
What does Debenhams say?
Geoff Rowley, joint administrator to Debenhams and partner at FRP Advisory, said: "All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams. However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.
"The decision to move forward with a closure programme has been carefully assessed and, while we remain hopeful that alternative proposals for the business may yet be received, we deeply regret that circumstances force us to commence this course of action."
The PA Media news association says Debenhams' collapse is partly linked to Topshop owner Arcadia also falling into administration this week, as it is the biggest operator of concessions in Debenhams stores.
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