independent– Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has said it is in talks to buy Debenhams from administrators, a week after the British department store collapsed.
In a statement sent to the stock exchange on Monday, Mr Ashley’s retail group confirmed weekend reports that it could offer a potential “rescue transaction” for Debenhams.
Frasers expressed hope that a deal could be reached and that some of the 12,000 jobs that are at risk could be saved. However, it warned that “time is short” and that its position was complicated by the recent administration of Arcadia Group, Debenhams’ biggest concession holder.
“There is no certainty that any transaction will take place, particularly if discussions cannot be concluded swiftly,” Frasers said on Monday.
Last week, the collapse of both Debenhams and Arcadia Group, which owns shops including Burton and Topshop, put thousands of jobs at risk.
Debenhams’ future was left in precarious situation on Tuesday when JD Sports withdrew from talks to rescue the 242-year-old business.
The confirmation that Frasers Group had entered discussions with Debenhams’ administrators comes shortly after its finance boss Chris Wootton indicated that it might be interested in buying the department store.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mr Wootton said: “We hope to be able to save as many jobs as possible. However, we have found that Debenhams has been overly reliant on Arcadia for many years, and, with the administration of Arcadia last week, as well as no end in sight to the outdated business rates regime which unduly punishes the likes of Debenhams, it may be a bridge too far.”
Despite a busy few days for England’s high streets over the first weekend since the second national lockdown lifted, footfall is still down 29 per cent from last year, according to the retail analysts ShopperTrak.
Andy Sumpter, a consultant at ShopperTrak, said that many shops “are still keenly feeling the impact of lockdown”.