ONLINE fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand for £55 million, however, it is not set to take on its stores or its workforce.

The retailer will relaunch the department store as an online-only operation from next year.

Bosses have said the deal does not involve saving stores, which are set to close for good as part of a structured winding down of the business.

Debenhams has several stores in Essex in Colchester, Southend, Basildon and Chelmsford.

The historic chain is already in the process of closing down, after administrators failed to secure a rescue deal for the business.

POLL: Will you miss Debenhams from Essex's high streets?

As many as 12,000 jobs are set to be lost across the UK.

Closing down sales at as many as 124 Debenhams stores started in December.

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Boohoo said the deal represents a “fantastic opportunity” to target new customers and launch into the beauty, sports and homewares market for the first time.

The company highlighted that Debenhams has six million beauty shoppers and 1.4 million Beauty Club members.

Boohoo said: “The group intends to rebuild and relaunch the Debenhams platform, helping further the group’s stated ambition to lead the fashion ecommerce market, and grow into new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

Debenhams’ own fashion brands will also be absorbed into Boohoo’s current portfolio and sold via the Debenhams website.

Boohoo chief executive John Lyttle said: “The acquisition of the Debenhams brand is an important development for the group, as we seek to capture incremental growth opportunities arising from the accelerating shift to online retail.”

Founder and executive chairman Mahmud Kamani said: “Our acquisition of the Debenhams brand is strategically significant as it represents a huge step which accelerates our ambition to be a leader, not just in fashion e-commerce, but in new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

Boohoo has previously bought a number of well-known high street brands out of administration, turning them into online-only operations, including Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen.

Geoff Rowley, joint administrator for Debenhams 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.”