DEBENHAMS’ Blackburn branch is in imminent danger of closure after the chain’s last remaining rescue bidder JD Sports pulled out of talks.

Around 12,000 jobs around the country have been put at risk around the country with the major outlet in The Mall Blackburn one of 130 nationwide looking set to shut down.

A high street jobs bloodbath is under way as 13,000 staff at Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group also face an anxious wait following the business collapsing into administration.

Arcadia, which owns brands such as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, has hired Deloitte to handle the next steps after the pandemic “severely impacted” upon sales.

Debenhams, which is already in administration, said it would start a liquidation process after JD Sports confirmed it had pulled out of a possible rescue.

Political, business and trade union leaders have expressed their disappointment at the news.

Loraine Jones, general manager at The Mall Blackburn, said: “It is always a very sad outcome when a business is forced to make a decision like this, but in particular our thoughts are with the Debenhams employees who are affected by the administration.

“We have worked hard with the Debenhams management team in the hope they would be successful in finding a new future for the business and safeguard jobs.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council cabinet member for regeneration Councillor Phil Riley said: “I don’t imagine that this will be the last closure that we have no control over, but it will leave a big hole in the Mall. It’s disappointing because this Debenhams has been trading well and it’s hugely disappointing for the staff.

“If the government cares about the high street then at some point they’ve got to level the playing field between physical shopping spaces and online stores.”

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Miranda Barker said this was yet another bitter blow for the local economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “It’s going to have a really big impact on our shopping centres and thinking specifically about Blackburn it’s a really significant tenant at the Mall so that’s going to be causing some difficulties when we eventually come back from lockdown.

“It just a tragedy for the high street, that we’ve lost so many well-known brands.”

Turning to the future of town centres she added: “We’re going to have to change the way our town centres operate to make them much more of an experience-orientated destination for families.”

Representatives of the workforce have added that they believe employees have not been treated fairly by the company and that the administrators must engage more positively.

USDAW shop workers union general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “It is devastating news. Throughout Debenhams’ difficulties the company and then administrators have refused to engage with USDAW, the staff are being treated appallingly.”

“That must not happen again, and we urge the administrators to engage with USDAW, the trade union for Debenhams staff.

“It is crucial that their voice is heard, and they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”