ANY lingering hopes that the Debenhams store in Winchester may be saved from permanent closure look to have been dashed.

Online retailer boohoo has paid £55m to acquire the Debenhams brand name and its website but none of the company's stores, in a deal announced today.

As well as the Winchester High Street branch the news affects the store's other branches in Fareham and Portsmouth. The Southampton store permanently closed in the first lockdown last year.

The administrators of Debenhams, FRP Advisory, confirm that boohoo group has signed an agreement to buy the Debenhams brand and other business assets including all the in-house brands and websites; which will take full effect following the completion of the current stock liquidation programme, which is continuing online.

Debenhams' High Street store is currently closed and it is to reopen to sell its remaining stock.

Cllr Paula Ferguson, Winchester City Council’s cabinet member for the economy, said: "'Obviously, we're really disappointed to see the Winchester Debenhams close, particularly as this means over 100 people will lose their jobs.

“But as this has been on the cards for some time, we're already in contact with the landlords to understand their plans for the future.”

The store is owned by Surrey County Council which bought it in 2017.

Judge Daniel Schaffer made a winding-up order at an online hearing in the Insolvency and Companies Court yesterday.

The judge said the Official Receiver now should assess the position.

He had been asked to consider Debenhams’ position by lawyers representing a shareholder and debtors.

The judge said he was making a winding-up order of his own motion.

“The company is a rudderless ship drifting in an ocean of insolvency, unable to be rescued,” he said.

“It is time for the court to bring this ship into port, so the harbour master, here the Official Receiver, can assess the position.”

FRP said in a statement today: "A thorough and robust process has been undertaken by the administrators to achieve the best outcome for Debenhams’ stakeholders. This transaction will allow a new Debenhams-branded business to emerge under strong new ownership, including an online operation and the opportunity to secure an international franchise network that will operate under licence using the Debenhams name.

"Boohoo group plc has paid a cash consideration of £55million to acquire the global rights to Debenhams brands and its websites. Once Debenhams stores are able to reopen and the stock liquidation can continue in stores, the website will be operated by boohoo. The closing down sale will continue in stores for several weeks until the stock liquidation is completed and the value of this stock will be retained for creditors. Regrettably, all the UK stores will then be permanently closed."

Geoff Rowley, Joint Administrator and Partner of FRP Advisory, said: “We are pleased to have secured the future for this great brand, and to have created the opportunity for a new Debenhams-branded business to emerge in a different shape beyond the pandemic. I expect that the agreement with boohoo may provide some job opportunities but we regret that this outcome does not safeguard the jobs of Debenhams’ employees beyond the winding down period. We are very grateful that they have worked tirelessly through this very challenging period and will continue to support the closing down sale. I’d also like to thank the management team, who have worked very hard throughout to protect the business and support us in delivering the best outcome for stakeholders.”

Boohoo shareholders appeared to welcome the deal, with shares up four per cent in early trading on Monday.

However, Shore Capital retail analyst Greg Lawless warned that an online-only operation could hit Debenhams’ beauty sales.

He said: “The big question in beauty is whether the big beauty brands – Clinique and Channel – will remain with Boohoo longer term.

“The Debenhams number one position in premium beauty was predicated on counter sales, which will not form part of this acquisition.”