Beleaguered department store Debenhams has launched a fight against business rates hikes, warning it could be forced to shutter more stores and lay off thousands of workers if it is unsuccessful.
The retailer has appealed to a tribunal about a 12 per cent jump in business rates to £1.1m at its Swansea store.
Debenhams, which has already made 6,500 workers redundant during the pandemic, said the action represented the beginning of a “nationwide fight” for business rates to “reflect reality”.
The high street chain, which recently fell into administration for the second time within a year, said thousands more jobs could be lost unless it is able to agree more “realistic assessments”.
Since the UK coronavirus lockdown forced all non-essential retailers to close, Debenhams has reduced its store estate from 142 to 124.
“The Swansea hearing is a vital test case, with serious implications for jobs, both locally and across the UK,” a Debenhams spokesperson said.
“The outcome will go a long way to defining the future of every one of our stores.
“Currently, we have a completely unsustainable situation where rents are going down, but our rates bill is going up.
“We understand the pressures on the Treasury but, unless common sense prevails, the end result of rates hikes will be further store closures and more job losses.
“We are fighting hard to save every store – and every job – we can and the outcome of the Swansea tribunal will go a long way to determining the ultimate size of the business.”