To no great surprise retail kingpin Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is in for Debenhams at the 11th hour.
“Ashley has been the great dealmaker of the high street in recent years and after JD Sports pulled out of its own deal for the department store it felt almost inevitable he would throw his hat into the ring.
“Having acquired another ailing chain in House of Fraser in 2018, you can see what Ashley’s playbook is likely to be with some store closures a relative certainty, perhaps even more so given House of Fraser and Debenhams stores will often sit cheek by jowl. He will also look to drive a hard bargain with landlords.
“Ashley might be interested in some of Debenhams’ in-house brands which he might then be able to sell in other outlets.
“The queues outside Debenhams since lockdown was lifted in England suggest the wider Debenhams name still resonates with shoppers although there was also likely an element of opportunistic bargain hunters inspired what they expected to be a big closing down sale.
“If the brand had that much appeal Debenhams arguably wouldn’t be in the mess it is now. It failed to adapt to the changing retail landscape and was left looking sluggish by its rivals.
“Obstacles to a deal remain, time is short and Frasers itself acknowledges the Arcadia administration process as an obstacle given it is/was the main concession holder in Debenhams stores.
“What seems likely is that the recent consolidation and failures in retail will not be the end of the story with the weaker players facing a big reckoning after a desperate attempt to salvage Christmas.”