Debenhams have announced they will close 50 of their 166 UK stores over the next three to five years, after recording a loss of nearly £500 million, the biggest loss in its 240 year history.

The struggling department store previously said that ten stores would close but has now revised that target, putting 4,000 jobs at risk.

Although the stores that will close haven’t been named, Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher said the company was “taking tough decisions” on stores where financial performance was likely to deteriorate over time.

The company’s shares have plummeted after the news of the closures, falling from 35p in January to just 8.5p, which gave the company a value of just over £100m.

Sergio Bucher said: “It has been a tough year for retail in 2018 and our performance reflects that. We are taking decisive steps to strengthen Debenhams in a market that remains volatile and challenging.

“We are taking tough decisions on stores where financial performance is likely to deteriorate over time.

“Debenhams remains a strong and trusted brand with 19 million customers shopping with us over the past year. With a strengthened balance sheet, we will focus investment behind our strategic priorities and ensure that Debenhams has a sustainable and profitable future.”

Property is our biggest cost

In a letter to property industry magazine Estates Gazette last week, Sergio Bucher highlighted the costs of property to Debenhams. He said: “After our people, property is our biggest cost, and right now, it is our biggest challenge.

“While almost all of our 166 UK stores are profitable today, extrapolate current market trends three to five years forward and that picture is going to change.”