Online fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55m in a deal that will see the eponymous department store name survive, but the company’s remaining 118 stores close for good in the UK.
The deal will see Debenhams products sold by Boohoo from early next year, allowing enough time for liquidators to continue closing the retailer’s sites once they are allowed to reopen after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.
But with stores closing across the 242-year-old brand, it is unlikely many of the remaining 12,000 jobs are likely to be saved.
Debenhams had already announced significant job losses and the permanent closure of six stores, including its flagship outlet on London’s Oxford Street.
Boohoo said the deal represents a “fantastic opportunity” to target new customers and launch into the beauty, sports and homewares market for the first time.
The company highlighted how Debenhams has six million beauty shoppers and 1.4 million Beauty Club members.
“The group intends to rebuild and relaunch the Debenhams platform, helping further the group’s stated ambition to lead the fashion eCommerce market, and grow into new categories including beauty, sport and homeware,” it said.
In hints that it intends to take on the might of Amazon, Boohoo said it would create the UK’s largest marketplace across fashion, beauty, sport and homeware.
It plans to expand the range of products sold via Debenhams marketplace by maintaining current third party relationships and expanding further.
Debenhams’ own fashion brands will also be absorbed into Boohoo’s current portfolio and sold via the Debenhams website.
“The acquisition of the Debenhams brand is an important development for the group, as we seek to capture incremental growth opportunities arising from the accelerating shift to online retail,” Boohoo’s chief executive John Lyttle said.
“Our acquisition of the Debenhams brand is strategically significant as it represents a huge step which accelerates our ambition to be a leader, not just in fashion eCommerce, but in new categories including beauty, sport and homeware,” BooHoo’s founder and executive chairman Mahmud Kamani added.
Boohoo has previously bought a number of well-known high street brands out of administration, turning them into online-only operations, including Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen.
Meanwhile, ASOS said it was in exclusive talks with the administrators of Philip Green’s collapsed Arcadia group over the acquisition of the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands.