Debenhams gears up for business rates battle to decide its future

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Department store chain Debenhams is gearing up for a battle over a proposed business rates hike on one of its stores that it says could decide the future of the whole group.

The retailer has appealed to a tribunal against the 12% hike in its business rates bill to £1.1m on one of its stores in Swansea, Wales. As a result, it said it was “kicking off a nationwide fight in local tribunals for its business rates liability to be rebased to reflect reality”.

Given the problems battering the UK high street pre-coronavirus, and the catastrophic effects on trading from the lockdown and continued slow footfall growth, Debenhams said a failure to reverse “unsustainable” rates increases put more of its stores and staff’s jobs at risk. 

“Unless more realistic assessments are agreed, Debenhams is likely to have to close more stores, with the result that thousands more workers will lose their jobs,” it said. “Since lockdown, the network has already shrunk from 142 to 124 stores.”

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