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Debenhams to close all 118 UK stores for good as Boohoo buys brand and website - what it means for shoppers

Debenhams is set to disappear from the high street with all 118 of its remaining UK branches to close for good as online fashion retailer Boohoo buys the brand and website for £55 million. Here's what the move means for shoppers, including those with gift cards. 

As it's a non-essential retailer, all of Debenhams' shops are temporarily closed anyway due to various lockdowns across the UK. It's thought some or all stores will reopen when restrictions lift, but it's unclear how long they'll trade for before closing for good. Debenhams' website is currently still up and running, but from early 2022 its products will be sold online by Boohoo. 

The 242-year-old department store chain has already announced significant job losses and the permanent closure of six stores, including its London’s Oxford Street flagship outlet, over the past few weeks. The latest news puts 12,000 jobs at risk. 

The firm had warned in December 2020 that its UK business was likely to close for good by March 2021 if it couldn't find a buyer. It's been in administration since April 2020. 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.

Gift cards won't be accepted

Debenhams initially continued to accept gift cards when it first announced it was in trouble at the start of December 2020, but later that month it stopped accepting them both online and in stores. This gift card ban will continue meaning there's unfortunately very little you can do to try and recoup any value from them. 

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. You can register a claim as a creditor but you'll be one in a long line of people owed cash by the firm with no guarantee of getting your money back. 

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.

You can still place orders online 

Debenhams says you can continue to place online orders via its website. 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 orders 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.

Online returns can be posted back for full refunds

Debenhams will still provide full refunds for online returns so long as: 

  • It's been less than 28 days since you received the item
  • You haven't damaged it
  • It's in resalable condition eg. tags still attached, packaging is unopened, item has not been stained or marked
  • You have proof of purchase, such as your delivery note or your order is on its way or ready to collect email
  • You have the card you paid with
  • Your item is included in Debenhams' returns policy. You can find a list of the items that aren't included in its 'Things that aren't included in our returns policy' section online

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.

In-store returns are restricted

If you purchased something in store on or after 26 December 2020 you will have one-week from stores reopening after lockdown to get a refund or exchange for faulty or misdescribed items, or items covered under warranty. This date will vary as each store is likely to have a different date for reopening. For those who've simply changed their mind or their item isn't faulty - refunds will no longer be provided. 

We've asked Debenhams what the case is for items purchased in store before 26 December 2020 and we'll update this story when we know more. 

Debenhams credit cards should still work

In December 2020, Debenhams told us its one credit card would continue to work for now and that users could continue to manage their account, view transactions and make payments through the Debenhams card app, its online account manager, and through the automated phone service. We've asked if this is still the same and we'll update this story when we know more.

One thing it did change, however, is that from 1 December 2020 shoppers could no longer earn reward points - although at the time it said any points earned before 1 December 2020, above the value of £2, could still be redeemed towards purchases. We've asked if this is still the case and we'll update this story when we know more. 

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. 

I've got an insurance product with Debenhams - is it still valid?

If you have car, pet, travel or gadget insurance with Debenhams, it told us in December 2020 that you would 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. We've asked if this is still the case and we'll update this story when we know more. 

At the time, Debenhams told us it didn't know whether customers would be able to renew existing policies at expiry, or if they would 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 do Debenhams' administrators say?

Geoff Rowley, joint administrator for Debenhams and partner of FRP Advisory, said: “We are pleased to have secured the future for this great brand, and to have created the opportunity for a new Debenhams-branded business to emerge in a different shape beyond the pandemic.

“I expect that the agreement with Boohoo may provide some job opportunities but we regret that this outcome does not safeguard the jobs of Debenhams’ employees beyond the winding-down period.”

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