Sports fashion retailer JD Sports has entered exclusive talks with Debenhams over a rescue bid that could secure the future of the struggling department store chain.

JD Sports is reportedly interested in acquiring the entire Debenhams business and entered into talks with the department store chain’s advisor Lazard and administrators FRP over the weekend, according to The Times

While sources have cautioned the talks could yet come to nothing, a prospective deal has the potential to save the jobs of Debenhams’ 12,000 staff and secure the future of its 124 stores, after the department store chain fell into its second administration inside 12 months earlier in the year. 

The Times reported that JD Sports’ boss Peter Cowgill is predominantly interested in acquiring Debenhams because of its website, which remains one of the UK’s most popular shopping sites. 

The retailer reportedly has no interest in putting JD Sports products in Debenhams stores, but “is attracted by the opportunity of snapping up cheap space on the high street”.

Should the talks fall apart, the most likely outcome for Debenhams would be liquidation, with Hilco reportedly waiting in the wings. 

Both Debenhams and JD Sports have declined to comment. 

JD Sports’ growing interest in acquiring Debenhams comes after its great high street rival Sports Direct, now Frasers Group, withdrew from the race to snap up the firm earlier this month after refusing to match the £300m price tag set by Debenhams’ advisers.

JD Sports’ interest in Debenhams comes at the same time its deal to acquire Footasylum is back on the cards after an attempt by the Competition and Markets Authority to block it was overturned.