Londoners increasingly looking for jobs outside the capital, says job site

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 25th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Wave of ‘reverse commuters’ in prospect as number of jobseekers looking further afield jumps 27%

Londoners are increasingly looking for jobs outside the capital as the city’s economy stalls, one of the UK’s largest recruitment sites has found, raising the prospect of a wave of “reverse commuters” or a continued exodus of residents.

Figures from Indeed, based on millions of job adverts and searches, show that on 18 September, the number of posts advertised in London was down by 55% on the same date in 2019.

The sharp decline reflects the impact of closed offices and reduced hospitality services on the city’s jobs market.

Many restaurants, hotels and shops in business and tourist areas remain closed or are operating at a reduced capacity.

With vacancies thin on the ground, Indeed said more jobseekers living in London were now looking for work elsewhere. In August, the number looking outside London was up by 27% year on year, and by 30% compared with the start of the year.

The most popular search locations were parts of the home counties, with Essex top of the list, followed by Kent and Surrey, suggesting that people were willing to commute to work, at least in the short term.

The roles being searched for were typically lower-paid, with the top five being cleaner, customer service representative, warehouse worker, retail assistant and sales assistant.

However, jobseekers may struggle to find work in those areas. When the website looked at the areas recording the biggest fall in adverts, Scotland followed London with a 51% drop, but next on the list was the south-east of England with a similar-sized fall.

Jack Kennedy, Indeed’s UK economist, said the prolonged absence of commuters and tourists from central London was “weighing down” the pace of job creation in the capital.

“While London’s flagship financial and tech sectors are still recruiting, the types of job that Londoners are searching for most commonly outside London tend to be roles that were long abundant in the capital – from retail to cleaning work – but which are now scarcer,” he said.

“Most are looking for work in areas within commuting distance of London. This raises the prospect of a new type of worker: the reverse commuter who lives in London but travels out of the capital for work.”

High London rents and house prices mean that many people previously working in these roles in the centre of the city could be living in boroughs near to where they are now looking for work.https://www.theguardian.com/email/form/plaintone/3887Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

Letting agents and property websites have reported a surge in the numbers of tenants and homeowners looking to move out of London, and the jobs market could be driving some of this movement.

Neal Hudson, a housing market analyst, said there was evidence that people in so-called elementary jobs lived in the affordable boroughs, typically on the outskirts.

“There is a question over whether these people will stick with where they live or look to move out closer to the work (if it exists) and also whether the transport infrastructure can support these reversals in commuting patterns,” he said.

By Hilary Osborne

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Projects to build up to 45,000 new homes given green light ahead of planning shake-up

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 4th Aug, 2020) London, Uk – –

Treasury to allocate £900m to over 300 ‘shovel ready’ schemes and infrastructure projects

Robert Jenrick and Boris Johnson have promised major reforms to planning laws in England to build more homes. 

Projects to build up to 45,000 new homes are to get the green light as part of the latest round of investment from Boris Johnson’s promised “New Deal” ahead of a radical planning shake-up expected this week.

The Treasury is to allocate £900m from funds announced in Rishi Sunak’s budget to more than 300 so-called “shovel ready” schemes, which include the homes, new commercial space and infrastructure projects such as a high-speed rail station in Kent.

The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, said the investment would be“laying the foundations for a green economic recovery”.

Jenrick and the prime minister have promised major changes to planning laws in England, to be formally announced in the coming days, under which new homes and hospitals could be granted automatic planning permission to speed up building.

Under the plans, local councils will be asked to designate land either as “growth”, “renewal” or “protection”. New developments will be granted automatic permission on “growth” land and “renewal” areas will see developments given “permission in principle” subject to some checks. Only areas given the “protection” status, including the greenbelt, will not have automatic building rights.

The forthcoming reforms have led to warnings from housing charities about the potential risk of low-quality homes.

The government has also confirmed a £360m investment in Mayoral Combined Authority areas such as Greater Manchester and the West Midlands to build 26,000 more homes while protecting greenfield sites, with a further £8m earmarked to speed up the delivery of these new homes on brownfield sites.

The business and energy department also detailed its plans to fund up to two-thirds of the costs of green home improvements for more than 600,000 homes.

Tradespeople must register for TrustMark accreditation for improvements from wall insulation, floors and roofs to the installation of low-carbon heating. Households on low income can receive vouchers covering 100% of the cost of the improvements, up to a maximum of £10,000.

The investment is part of the £5bn New Deal spending announced in June, part of the £600bn-plus Sunak allocated in his March budget for capital projects over the next five years.

By Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

House prices bounced back in July, says Nationwide

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 31st July 2020) London, Uk – –

House prices bounced back in July, climbing 1.7% during the month compared to a 1.5% fall in June, according to the Nationwide.

“The bounce back in prices reflects the unexpectedly rapid recovery in housing market activity since the easing of lockdown restrictions,” it said.

Activity has been boosted by pent-up demand and the stamp duty holiday.

But the lender warned: “There is a risk this proves to be something of a false dawn.”

The average price in July was £220,936, according to the Nationwide. However, while prices were up 1.5% from a year earlier, July's price was 1.6% lower than in April at the beginning of lockdown.

However, it was a marked change to June's prices when the market posted its first annual fall in eight years.

The rebound in prices reflected a number of factors, said Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist.

He said pent up demand was coming through, from people who had already decided to move before lockdown began. But some people were moving because of their lockdown experience, he said.

“Behavioural shifts may be boosting activity, as people reassess their housing needs and preferences as a result of life in lockdown,” he said.

“Moreover, social distancing does not appear to be having as much of a chilling effect as we might have feared, at least at this stage.”

He said the upward trends look set to continue in the near term, and will be further boosted by the recently-announced stamp duty holiday.

But he added a note of caution. “Most forecasters expect labour market conditions to weaken significantly in the quarters ahead as a result of the after effects of the pandemic and as government support schemes wind down.

“If this comes to pass, it would likely dampen housing activity once again in the quarters ahead.”

Lenders cautious

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, also warned that the future may not be so positive for the housing market.

“Lenders remain keen to lend but also cautious as to borrowers' financial positions, given the impending end of the furlough scheme and a number of redundancies which have already been announced,” he said.

Anna Clare Harper, author of Strategic Property Investing, warned: “What no one can forecast is what happens next, with some nerves among homeowners, investors and economists as to what the future may hold.”

Jonathan Hopper, chief executive of Garrington Property Finders, said lockdown would have a lasting effect on the property market.

“Like so much else that has been transformed by the pandemic, the property market map is being redrawn as people reassess what they want from their homes and when, or even if, they need to travel to work,” he said.

“Three months of being cooped up in the same four walls has led many people to consider a move.”

By Simon Read Personal finance reporter

UK property values down by 0.1% compared with June 2019 – Nationwide

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed 7th July 2020) London, Uk – –

Property values down by 0.1% compared with June 2019, says Nationwide

Annual house price growth ground to a halt in June, with property values down by 0.1% year on year, according to Nationwide building society.

It was the first time annual house price growth has been in negative territory since December 2012, with a month-on-month fall of 1.4% taking the average UK house price to £216,403. The monthly fall was less severe than a 1.7% decline recorded in May.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “It is unsurprising that annual house price growth has stalled, given the magnitude of the shock to the economy as a result of the [coronavirus] pandemic.

“Economic output fell by an unprecedented 25% over the course of March and April – almost four times more than during the entire financial crisis.

“Housing market activity also slowed sharply as a result of lockdown measures implemented to control the spread of the virus.”

Gardner said that as lockdown measures eased, housing market activity was likely to edge higher in the near term, albeit remaining below pre-pandemic levels.

He added: “Nevertheless, the medium-term outlook for the housing market remains highly uncertain. Much will depend on the performance of the wider economy, which will in turn be determined by how the pandemic and restrictions on activity evolve.”

As well as releasing monthly house price figures for the whole of the UK, Nationwide published quarterly figures, looking at house price growth across the UK’s nations and regions.

Gardner said no UK regions had price falls when comparing April, May and June with the same period in 2019.

He said: “The north-west was the strongest performing region, with annual price growth picking up slightly to 4.8%.”

He said average house prices in London were just 3% below all-time highs recorded in 2017 and 55% above their 2007 levels.

Across the UK, house prices remain 19% higher than in 2007.

Gardner said: “Scotland was the strongest performing nation in quarter two, with annual price growth picking up to 4.0%.

“Conditions remained subdued in Wales and Northern Ireland, which saw annual price growth of 1.0% and 0.1% respectively.”

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: “Prices are being kept in check by affordability issues and more supply gradually becoming available.

“But demand is picking up as some buyers emerge from enforced confinement in unsuitable property and/or relationships to take advantage of continuing low interest rates, while sellers are more realistic.”

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UK’s unprecedented slump in the construction industry eases only partially in May – PMI

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 4th June 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The unprecedented slump in Britain’s construction industry caused by the coronavirus lockdown eased only partially in May, according to a survey that showed that building companies remained downbeat about their future.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI rose to 28.9 from April’s record low of 8.2, still a long way below the 50 dividing line for growth and the third-worst reading in the survey’s 23-year history.

A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a slightly stronger reading of 29.7.

“A gradual restart of work on site helped to alleviate the downturn in total UK construction output during May, but the latest survey highlighted that ongoing business closures and disruptions across the supply chain held back the extent of recovery,” Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said.

Business expectations in the construction sector were still in the red, in contrast with manufacturing and services companies who are already looking forward to better times, the report showed.

“Survey respondents often commented on the cancellation of new projects and cited concerns that clients would scale back spending through the second half of 2020, especially in areas most exposed to a prolonged economic downturn,” Moore said.

The all-sector PMI, which combines Britain’s construction survey with those for the manufacturing and services sector published earlier this week, rose to 29.9 in May from 13.4 in April.

Reporting by Andy Bruce

UK households, locked down in April, cut debts by highest on record

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 2nd June 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British consumers cut their debts by the most on record and mortgage approvals slumped to a new low in April as the country spent the month in coronavirus lockdowns.

Bank of England data published on Tuesday showed a net repayment of consumer credit of 7.4 billion pounds as people stuck at home slashed new borrowing to just half February’s level, before the crisis escalated.

Loan repayments by consumers also fell – as banks allowed many households to pause payments – but the drop in repayments was less than the decline in new borrowing. Household bank deposits surged by three times the recent average.

“Stronger household balance sheets should mean that consumers are in a good position to start spending again once the lockdowns are lifted said Thomas Pugh, an economist with Capital Economics. “But we think that households savings will remain elevated for a while yet.”

Consumer lending fell by 0.4% in the 12 months to April, the biggest drop since August 2012. Mortgage approvals fell to their lowest since records began in 1997 – 15,848, 80% below their level in February.

“This is consistent with the market almost completely disappearing during April,” JP Morgan economist Allan Monks said. “However, the easing of restrictions last month and our tracking of high-frequency indicators points to a partial recovery in house purchase activity from May and into June.”

Mortgage lender Nationwide said Britain’s house prices fell by the most in more than 11 years in May.

The BoE data showed net lending to businesses fell to 13.238 billion pounds in April, down by almost 20 billion pounds from March, when companies rushed to get loans to see them through the pandemic crisis, but still above average.

Britain’s government has promised 330 billion pounds worth of state guarantees for bank loans to businesses as part of its attempts to stave off a wave of bankruptcies.

Data published by the finance ministry on Tuesday showed small businesses had borrowed more than 21 billion pounds under a 100% government-guaranteed coronavirus programme for small companies, well ahead of other lending support schemes.

The Treasury also said its wage subsidy scheme to soften a surge in unemployment now covered more than 8.7 million jobs and claims had passed 17.5 billion pounds.

A similar scheme for self-employed people had seen 2.5 million claims worth 7.2 billion pounds.

By William Schomberg, David Milliken

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Borrower’s credit rating should be marked if further mortgage holidays taken -says Nationwide boss

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 29th May2020) London, Uk – –

A borrower's credit rating should be marked if they take a further mortgage holiday, the Nationwide has said.

Lenders look at somebody's credit rating when deciding whether to agree to a fresh loan or contract and the interest rate they will charge.

Joe Garner, chief executive of the Nationwide Building Society, said an extension to the mortgage break may signal a borrower was “struggling”.

He made the comment as the UK's largest mutual announced a plunge in profits.

Its statutory pre-tax profit fell to £466m in the year to April, compared with £833m the previous year.

The building society said it had already faced pressure on its profits before it took a £101m hit as a direct result of coronavirus.

Mortgage holidays started in March, allowing people to defer payments without affecting their credit rating.

That respite from payments would end for the first applicants in June, but the Treasury and regulators have said that those who need to will be permitted to defer for another three months. No decision has yet been made on whether this will be reflected on a credit reference used by other lenders.

Mr Garner said that 280,000 of its members had taken a payment break, the vast majority of which were mortgage holders.

“Probably the very first people to apply would be those who are really on top of their financial position and we know there are a lot of people who have taken them as a precaution, and will go back to paying in full at the first opportunity,” he said.

For those who needed a further payment break – which could include people who have continued to be furloughed, on sick pay, or who are self-employed – Mr Garner suggested there should be some kind of temporary notice on their credit rating until mortgage payments returned to normal.

This should not be a “big black mark”, he said, but “a middle way” that would alert lenders with a temporary mark, but not restrict people's ability to remortgage.

“If someone is struggling, and if there is no sign on their credit rating, they could go out and take further and further loans, which would not be in their interest,” he told the BBC.

The rules over whether credit ratings would be immune from further mortgage holidays have yet to be finalised by regulators.

Credit ratings are used widely to inform lenders' decisions on financial products – from granting personal loans to allowing access to mobile phone contracts.

Credit card breaks

The UK banking sector has approved 1.8 million mortgage holidays during the crisis, according to figures from trade body UK Finance.

There have also been 877,800 freezes on credit cards, up 26% since the start of the month, and 608,000 payment holidays on personal loans, up 30% over the same period.

However, in some circumstances, the build-up of interest could risk taking people over a limit which itself would leave a mark on their credit reference.

Millions of people have seen the first £500 of an arranged overdraft made interest-free for three months.

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Estate agents report rise in Homebuyers ‘plotting move to country’ amid increased home working

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 8th May 2020) London, Uk – –


Homebuyers ‘plotting move to country' amid increased home working

Estate agents report rise in buyer registrations around Winchester and Berkshire

After the lockdown, the exodus. Estate agents are reporting a surge in the numbers of would-be homebuyers plotting a move out of the city to a rural area or smaller town as people conclude that home working is here to stay.

Firms said that during the last few weeks they had seen a big increase in enquiries about well-connected countryside and “out of city” locations – ranging from English market towns to Scottish fishing villages – where people could split their working week between home and office once life starts to return to normal.

The upmarket estate agent Savills said locations that had seen a rise in buyer registrations included the areas in and around Winchester in Hampshire, Newbury in Berkshire, Canford Cliffs in Dorset and the East Neuk of Fife on the east coast of Scotland.

Lockdown appears to be prompting many people to reassess what is important to them, whether that is a desire to continue working from home for part of the week once normal service resumes or wanting a bigger garden for their children to play in.

The pandemic has effectively pushed the UK housing market into a temporary deep freeze, with people being told by the government to postpone moving until a later date, and there have been claims that several hundred thousand home sales will be abandoned this year.Advertisement

However, Rightmove has revealed that visits to its site during the last three days of April were up more than 20% compared with the first few days of lockdown, as more people stuck at home started to think about a new life in the country.

Andrew Perratt, the head of country residential at Savills, said it might be easy to dismiss an increase in web visits as largely being down to “bored dreamers” sitting at home surfing the internet, but he added: “What is most significant for me is the jump in new buyer registrations.”

Perratt said the big demand was for properties in “the country markets around the major cities,” which included villages and market towns.

The mass switch to working from home had proved that “you don’t need to be in London, or another city, five days a week,” he said. “I think there are lessons to be learned for all of us in terms of the number of times we need to visit a city during a working week.”

Savills surveyed nearly 700 registered buyers and sellers in the so-called prime property market between 21 April and 27 April to find out how their attitudes to moving had changed during the coronavirus crisis. It found 49% expected increased home working to continue post-lockdown, while about four in 10 said they would now find a village or countryside location more appealing than previously, with the latter figure higher for those with school-age children.

This prompted the firm to talk about a potential “rural renaissance”. Winchester has reasonably good rail links with London, with a journey time of just over an hour, and lies at the western end of the South Downs national park. The average house price there is £419,000, compared with £477,000 in London, according to the most recent official Land Registry data.

Newbury is well known for its strong transport links, lies on the edge of the Berkshire Downs and is surrounded by attractive villages such as Highclere and Hermitage.

Perratt said his theory was that Canford Cliffs, an affluent suburb of Poole in Dorset, was an area where some wealthy Londoners were lucky enough to already own a bolthole to escape to, and that some may be looking to “flip” their life so that this becomes their principal residence instead of London.

Similarly with the East Neuk of Fife, which includes picturesque fishing towns such as Anstruther, people might be looking to swap their Edinburgh townhouse for a smaller flat and use the proceeds to buy a bigger home on the coast, he added.

At the Douglas Allen branch in Brentwood, Essex, manager Reece Giles said interest from potential buyers in nearby London boroughs looking to relocate to the area “has kind of gone through the roof”. The Brentwood area includes villages such as Navestock that offer the benefits of rural life but are within an easy commute of London.

The Savills research also found that one in six respondents were ready for a longer commute, with the firm saying it believed some people would be prepared to put up with a two-hour journey to work if they were only going into the office for a couple of days a week.

The latest Rightmove data, meanwhile, named Inverness in the Scottish Highlands as the location seeing the biggest year-on-year increase in searches – up 167%.

Reporting by Rupert Jones

UK clothing retailer Next plans first beauty shops in former Debenhams stores

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 7th May 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British clothing retailer Next (NXT.L) said on Thursday it plans to open its first standalone beauty shops by taking space in five former Debenhams stores, seeking to diversify its offer into faster growing markets.

The move is a departure for Next, which has traditionally sold clothes, homeware and beauty products altogether in its stores. It’s also a sign that retailers with robust finances can take advantage of opportunities for future growth while weaker rivals battle to survive during the coronavirus pandemic.

Struggling department store chain Debenhams said on Wednesday it would not re-open five stores leased from landlord Hammerson (HMSO.L) after failing to agree rent terms with the mall operator.

All Debenhams and Next stores in Britain are currently closed as part of the country’s lockdown.

Next said it has signed new flexible leases with Hammerson for the space in sites which include Bullring & Grand Central in Birmingham and Highcross in Leicester, central England, as well as Silverburn Glasgow in Scotland.

Next will trade the space as “The Beauty Hall from NEXT”.

“This is another example of how we are repurposing department store space,” said Hammerson CEO David Atkins.

Next CEO Simon Wolfson said the deal was an opportunity to “create a new force in beauty retailing.”

Next said it aimed to create a premium retail environment for beauty, to complement its existing online beauty business, which sells over 200 beauty brands, including Estee Lauder, Clinique and GHD.

Next said it is in talks to add a small number of further sites.

It said it was likely that many of the former Debenhams’ beauty staff will get a job at Next.

Last month Next sold property, suspended share buybacks and dividends and delivered higher cost savings to shore up its finances. Its first quarter sales plunged 41%.

Shares in Next, down 33% so far this year, were up 0.9% at 0954 GMT, while Hammerson was down 6.3% near all-time lows. The mall operator’s shares have fallen more than 80% since December.

Reporting by James Davey

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UK financial watchdog to ask courts to urgently clarify coronavirus business insurance

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 1st May 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s financial watchdog said it would urgently ask the courts to clarify uncertainty over the inability of some insurance customers to obtain compensation for disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A national lockdown to fight the pandemic has forced many companies to temporarily suspend operations and furlough staff.

The Financial Conduct Authority said it was seeking a declaration from the court due to continuing concerns about the lack of clarity and certainty for some customers making business interruption claims, and the basis on which some firms are making decisions in relation to claims.

“This will assist both insurers and the insured. It will not determine how much is payable under individual policies, but will provide the basis for doing so,” the FCA said in a statement on Friday.

The FCA also set out measures to support consumers and businesses who hold insurance products and who are facing other issues as a result of coronavirus.

“The package of measures sets out the FCA’s expectations that insurance firms should consider whether their products still offer value to customers in the current situation and whether they can be doing more for those suffering a financial impact because of coronavirus,” the watchdog said.

Reporting by Huw Jones

UK Finance figures show one in nine mortgage borrowers on payment break

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 14th April 2020) London, Uk – –

UK Finance figures showed that around 61,000 mortgage holidays were being granted every day over recent weeks.

One in nine home loans in the UK are now on a mortgage holiday because of measures to support those affected by the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

UK Finance, the trade body for Britain's banks and building societies, said lenders had agreed to give repayment breaks to more than 1.2 million mortgage borrowers.

The number of payment holidays in place more than tripled in the two weeks between March 25 and April 8, growing from 392,130 to 1,240,680, the organisation said.

That meant an average of around 61,000 were being granted by lenders every day.

The figures were disclosed after a series of measures to help people facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic – including mortgage holidays – were announced by lenders a month ago.

For the average mortgage holder, the payment break amounts to £260 a month of suspended interest payments.

UK Finance chief executive Stephen Jones said: “The industry has pulled out all the stops in recent weeks to give an unprecedented number of customers a payment holiday, and we stand ready to help more over the coming months.

“We understand that the current crisis is having a significant impact on household finances for people across the country.”

However, Mr Jones said that payment holidays were not the right solution for everyone and borrowers should check with their lenders about the support available and how to apply.

The mortgage holidays are designed to help people struggling to make their payments, for example if they have had a pay cut or their work has temporarily stopped due to COVID-19.

They can request a mortgage payment holiday of up to three months.

Payment holidays are available to customers who are up-to-date on their mortgage payments. They will still owe the money and interest will still accrue.

Homeowners applying for a mortgage payment holiday will need to self-certify that their income has been either directly or indirectly impacted by coronavirus.

UK Finance has said firms will make every effort to ensure payment holidays do not negatively impact on credit files.

It added that telephone lines were extremely busy so customers were advised to look at their lender's website in the first instance.

Borrowers have been urged not to cancel their direct debits before a payment holiday has been agreed, as this will be counted as a missed payment and could impact their credit file.

Banks have been under pressure to act as the coronavirus crisis takes a heavy toll on the economic situation of millions of Britons.

Many have already axed dividends and cut bonuses for top bosses.

But analysis by Sky News last week revealed that banks were raising interest rates on mortgages, defying efforts by the Treasury and Bank of England to ease the burden on households.

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Coronavirus: Debenhams to file for administration

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 6th April 2020) London, Uk – –

Debenhams will file for administration after the coronavirus lockdown forced it to shut its shops across the UK.

It described the process as a “light touch” administration to protect it from legal action from creditors while its department stores are closed.

Debenhams boss Stefaan Vansteenkiste said the circumstances of the decision were “unprecedented”.

“We have taken this step to protect our business, our employees, and other important stakeholders,” he said.

Mr Vansteenkiste said it will allow Debenhams “to resume trading from our stores when government restrictions are lifted”.

However, he did not say how many of its 142 shops would reopen after the lockdown.

“We are striving to protect jobs and reopen as many Debenhams stores for trading as we can, as soon as this is possible,” he said.

It will be the second time in a year that Debenhams has filed for administration. It has already closed 22 stores this year and plans to shut a further 28 in 2021.

The retailer said it is still trading online “normally” while its shops are closed.

It has furloughed the majority of its staff who are being paid under the government's coronavirus job retention scheme which pays 80% of a worker's salary up to £2,500 a month.

“Debenhams has been in financial difficulties for a while so this doesn't come as a major surprise,” said Julie Palmer, regional managing partner at restructuring firm Begbies Traynor.

“But it will leave its 20,000 plus strong workforce in a precarious position who will struggle to get new employment during the ongoing uncertainty.”

Pre-arranged deal

Last week, the BBC reported that Debenhams would likely agree to a pre-pack administration, where a company arranges to sell its business to a pre-determined buyer before administrators are appointed.

The department store chain's decision to file for administration will, in effect, buy the firm's management team the time to arrange a pre-pack administration or enter into a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which would enable them to negotiate with creditors.

Sources told the BBC that lenders don't want to extend credit to Debenhams, in other words put more money in, unless they know landlords will accept another round of swingeing rent cuts as well as a five-month rent and service charge holiday.

It would be the second CVA Debenhams has undertaken in less than a year, after last year falling into the hands of its lenders, comprising a group of banks and hedge funds led by US firm Silver Point Capital, after struggling for years to keep up with competition from rivals.

The lockdown has exacerbated the pressures the struggling retail sector was already facing.

Arcadia, which is controlled by Sir Philip Green, is reported to be preparing to walk away from a number of its property leases.

The firm which owns several well known High Street chains including Topshop, Wallis and Miss Selfridge, has furloughed 14,500 of its 16,000 employees since the coronavirus lockdown and said its board members and senior leadership are taking pay cuts of between 25% and 50%.

Arcadia is also facing uncertainty over the future of its concessions in Debenhams' stores.

‘Final straw'

Meanwhile, with all non-essential shops closed, some retailers, such as Primark, have opted to cancel orders with their suppliers.

Fashion chain New Look recently informed its suppliers that payment for stock already sitting in its shops or distribution centre would be delayed “indefinitely”.

Independent retail expert Clare Bailey said retailers had already been under strain for the last two or three years because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its effect on consumer confidence.

“[Coronavirus] was the final straw of all the straws that broke the camel's already very broken back,” she said.

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