FOR the second time in 12 months, historic retailer Debenhams is on the brink of administration.

The company confirmed the news on Monday morning, saying the current owners wanted to push the business into administration and then buy it back debt-free.

There are 142 stores currently closed across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the store in The Mall, Blackburn.

And the majority of the company's 22,000 staff are on furlough following the shutdown of non-essential shops.

A spokesperson for Debenhams said: "This move will protect Debenhams from the threat of legal action that could have the effect of pushing the business into liquidation while its 142 UK stores remain closed in line with the Government's current advice regarding the Covid-19 pandemic."

It added that it is making preparations to open again once Government restrictions are lifted and continues to trade online across the UK, Ireland and Denmark and customer orders, gift cards and returns are being accepted and processed normally.

Debenhams, which closed 22 shops in recent months, is now engaging with employees and suppliers over the move.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: "Debenhams has been in financial difficulties for a while so this doesn't come as a major surprise, 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."