Debenhams is in real trouble, there is no doubt, and there is a risk it could go into administration.
The retailer reported a sharp fall in sales during the crucial Christmas trading period and ever since it has been reported that it is on the brink. It has been suggested that as many as 90 stores could close with the loss of 10,000 jobs.
Debenhams said customers had been seeking discounts and left their shopping late. It said sales fell 5.7% in the 18 weeks to 5 January. The Chairman, Sir Ian Cheshire, has been ousted by the board in a coup by Mike Ashley. This has hit the share price further which is at record low of 3.5 pence (14th Jan)
House of Fraser has all but gone from the High Street, as Mike Ashley closes more stores and it doesn't look like Debenhams is picking up their trade. The thing is that Debenhams is making an operational proft, it just isn't much considering how large it is with 27,000 employees. It used the last results to make a one off write down that hit the share price.
Mike Ashley could possibly buy Debenhams in a Pre Pack Administration if it faces a cash crunch. Credit insurers have withdrawn support for suppliers but, this is not uncommon in retail at the moment. However, a recent report by Sky says that the lenders to the firm have appointed FTI Consulting to look at restructuring. Although they are not Insolvency Practitioners it does show the level of concern by their lenders. A Company Voluntary Arrangement is a possible outcome.
Sales figures on the High Street continue to disappoint and if Brexit uncertainties carry on then Debenhams will face further pressure.
However, it should be noted that it is not in the same precarious position as House Fraser in relation to debt. House of Fraser had £1bn of debt which was clearly unsustainable, whilst Debenhams has only £200m.
Also, you can't get everything in Debenhams cheaper online as it has more own brands and collaborations with designers than House of Fraser.