Debenhams website overwhelmed as shoppers rush to grab bargains

2 December 2020, 09:07

Debenhams collapsed on Tuesday, putting 12,000 jobs at risk
Debenhams collapsed on Tuesday, putting 12,000 jobs at risk. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Debenhams website has been overwhelmed with shoppers looking to bag a bargain following news of the chain's collapse.

The department store chain is being liquidated after JD sports pulled out of talks to save the flagging brand.

It means 12,000 jobs are now at risk following a terrible week for retail which saw Sir Philip Green's Arcadia empire also collapse.

Read more: Covid 'accelerated' closure of High Street shops such as Debenhams, retail expert warns

But high demand sent thousands online, and long, virtual queues, with reports that the site crashed.

"We have been seeing unprecedented levels of visits," a spokesperson said.

In an attempt to keep up with the additional demand on the website, the retailer was forced to implement a queuing system, with a hold screen telling customers: "We will get you onto the site as soon as possible."

The website crashed on Tuesday
The website crashed on Tuesday. Picture: Debenhams

Social media users were left disappointed after being kicked off the queue and waiting hours for deals.

Many commented that they had seen as many as 900,000 other customers in the queue for the website.

"50 minutes to get onto the @Debenhams website then after 5 minutes get kicked off to the end of the queue because my time is up what stupidity is this?!" wrote one person.

One social media user wrote: "Only problem is once you get in there the homepage keeps crashing. No wonder they've gone bust."

Another said: "Finally get onto the website, start adding to my basket and then an error message pops up saying my queue number has been rejected and I have to join the back of the queue again! Actually livid."

However, other social media users expressed more sympathy, with one saying: "If you're planning to go raid Debenhams with the announcement of them selling off stock, please be kind to their staff. This is awful."

Others called the people complaining "sad" and "embarrassing".

Debenhams is to start its liquidation process after JD Sports confirmed it had pulled out of a possible rescue deal.

The 242-year-old department store chain said its administrators have "regretfully" decided to start winding down operations while continuing to seek offers "for all or parts of the business".

It is understood that the collapse of rescue talks were partly linked to the administration of Arcadia Group, which is the biggest operator of concessions in Debenhams stores.

Debenhams said it will continue to trade through its 124 UK stores and online to clear its current and contracted stocks.

"On conclusion of this process, if no alternative offers have been received, the UK operations will close," the company said in statement.

Geoff Rowley, of FRP Advisory, joint administrator to Debenhams, said: "All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams.

"However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.

"The decision to move forward with a closure programme has been carefully assessed and, while we remain hopeful that alternative proposals for the business may yet be received, we deeply regret that circumstances force us to commence this course of action.

"We are very grateful for the efforts of the management team and staff who have worked so hard throughout the most difficult of circumstances to keep the business trading."

JD Sports was the last remaining bidder for Debenhams, which has been in administration since April.

In a brief statement to the London Stock Exchange, the company said: "JD Sports Fashion, the leading retailer of sports, fashion and outdoor brands, confirms that discussions with the administrators of Debenhams regarding a potential acquisition of the UK business have now been terminated."

Sources close to JD Sports said the retailer saw a potential deal for Debenhams as "50-50" last week after entering exclusive talks with the high street stalwart.

However, it is understood that concerns over JD's lack of experience in running department stores and a shareholder backlash, which saw shares tumble after talks were first confirmed, contributed to the group backing out of a potential deal.

Debenhams has already axed 6,500 jobs across its operation due to heavy cost-cutting after it entered administration for the second time in 12 months.

Arcadia tumbled into insolvency on Monday evening, casting a shadow over its own 13,000 workers and 444 stores.