Timeline: The rise and decline of high street giant Debenhams

Debenhams, long a staple of the British high street, has a history stretching back more than two centuries.


Here we look back over key moments in its growth and decline.

- 1778 - William Clark opens a drapers store selling expensive fabrics and accessories in London’s West End.

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Debenhams to close up to 50 stores putting thousands of jobs at risk

- 1813 - William Debenham invests in Clark’s firm and it becomes Clark and Debenham. It opens its first shop outside the capital five years later in Cheltenham.

- 1905 - Following decades of business acquisitions from retail to manufacturing, Debenhams Ltd is incorporated.

- 1920 - The business purchases retailer Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge.

- 1928 - Debenhams becomes a public company after the Debenham family ends its involvement in the business.

- 1950 - The retailer becomes the largest department store in the UK, owning 84 companies and 110 outlets.

- 2013 - After decades of growth, sales start to slide and the company announces a profit warning, amounting to a 26% plunge. Shares drop 12%.

- January 2014 - Simon Herrick, the company’s chief financial officer, resigns after the profits warning.

- January 2015 - A curb on promotions boosts Christmas sales for Debenhams, but fails to stave off questions about its turnaround plans.

- October 2015 - Michael Sharp, the company’s chief executive, announces he will be stepping down amid shareholder pressure for a boardroom shake-up. It comes as Debenhams enjoys its first rise in annual profits for four years, up 2.9% in underlying pre-tax profits.

- May 2016 - Amazon Fashion boss Sergio Bucher is confirmed as Debenham’s new chief executive.

- October 2016 - The challenges facing Mr Bucher are laid bare when a slump in full-year profits is reported, down 10.4% before tax.

- April 2017 - Debenhams reveals plans to put 10 stores under review and says it is closing 11 warehouses, including one of its major distribution centres employing 220 staff.

- October 2017 - The retailer reports a collapse in annual pre-tax profits, tanking 44% to £59 million in the year to September 2.

- January 2018 - Further turbulence is disclosed, with Debenhams saying UK like-for-like sales tumbled 2.6% in the 17 weeks to December 30, with overall group sales down 1.8%.

- February - It is announced 320 store management roles are to be slashed.

- April - A half-year profits plunge of nearly 85% is revealed, with pre-tax profits falling from £87.8 million to just £13.5 million over the 26 weeks to March 3. Sales took a major hit during the final days of the trading period when bad weather forced Debenhams to temporarily close around 100 stores.

- June - Debenhams issues its third profit warning of the year.

- August - The retailer announces it is to swing the axe on up to 90 staff as it enters redundancy talks with hundreds of workers at its fashion and home departments.

- October - Shares plunge 17% after KPMG is called in to help draft emergency plans to save the high-street giant. Plans are unveiled for 50 shops to be closed, threatening 4,000 jobs.