FASHION retailer Boohoo has paid £55m to acquire the brand of collapsed rival Debenhams with the intention of relaunching it online.
The cut-price deal for the brand name, intellectual property and customer lists will eventually result in the closure of Debenhams' 118 remaining stores, including Newry, as none of the sites are included in the sale.
Administrators at FRP Advisory confirmed stores would, once allowed under COVID-19 restrictions, re-open only for the purpose of clearing stock - with a fire sale continuing online presently.
Commenting on the sale of Debenhams to online retailer Boohoo, Colm Shannon, Chief Executive of Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade said:
“Confirmation of the sale of Debenhams to Boohoo is devastating news for Newry’s Debenhams staff. The trend for online retailers to snap up high street brands, with Asos this week buying the Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge brands from Arcadia is not good for the future of retail.
“The face of our high streets may be changing but, with support, there is still a future for retail. Newry still has a strong retail offering with both national and local independent retail names. If they are to continue to trade successfully post lockdown, they need the NI Executive to deliver a comprehensive support plan for our high streets.
“The NI Executive announced a High St Taskforce last year, but we are still waiting for it to deliver anything. When it is safe to reopen our shops, we need the NI Executive to be ready with a plan to rebuild confidence in our town and city centres. We need a plan that not only supports the shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and hotels that make our town centres special, but also a plan that delivers alternative and imaginative ways of attracting people back into our town centres.”
Meanwhile Lidl Northern Ireland will create 20 new jobs this year and share a COVID employee bonus of £40,800 amongst its staff in the area. Lidl Northern Ireland operates 10 stores across County Down including two in Newry and stores in Holywood, Newcastle, Newtownards, Bangor, Ballynahinch, Downpatrick, Banbridge and Dundonald.
The announcement comes as Lidl Northern Ireland was named Top Employer for 2021 by the Top Employers Institute – an esteemed international, sought-after certification, held by global brands such as PepsiCo, Adidas and Heineken, showcases an organisation’s dedication to a better world of work, exhibited through excellent HR policies and people practices.