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Debenhams threatens to keep Welsh stores shut

Debenhams store in Cardiff

Image caption

Debenhams has stores in several locations in Wales including Cardiff

Debenhams has warned the Welsh finance minister it will be forced to shut its major shops in Wales unless the government reverses a decision on business rates relief.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has granted a rates holiday to all retail, leisure and hospitality firms for a year.

The Welsh Government initially said it would match these plans.

But it has since decided not to extend relief to properties with a rateable value of £500,000 and above.

In a letter seen by the BBC, Debenhams’s chairman writes that the move threatens the viability of its biggest stores in Wales – Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Wrexham and Llandudno.

Mark Gifford says in the letter: “It is deeply regrettable that, by electing to take a different approach to that taken elsewhere in the UK, you have made it economically unviable for us to continue trading the majority of our Welsh business.

“You have failed to understand the situation, where Debenhams Retail Limited is in administration and will cease to pay business rates unless it chooses to reopen its stores in Wales.

“It will be unable to reopen its stores unless you reverse your decision.”

The BBC has contacted the Welsh Government for a response.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that four more Debenhams stores will not reopen post-lockdown, after the business failed to agree deals with landlords.

The shops are in Southampton, Swindon, Kidderminster and Borehamwood.

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KALPESH RUDANI

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