UK department store chain Debenhams is preparing to enter administration for the second time in a year to protect the business from legal action from creditors during the coronavirus emergency that could have pushed it into liquidation. 

The retailer said today it had filed a notice of intent (NOI) to appoint an administrator. 

A spokesperson for Debenhams confirmed that its Irish stores are unaffected by the decision to place the UK outlets into administration.

The Irish stores currently remain closed as a result of government restrictions, but the company plans to reopen them all once the restrictions are lifted.

With Britain in lockdown during the pandemic, Debenhams' 142 UK stores are currently closed, while the majority of its 22,000 workers are being paid under the government's furlough scheme. 

The company is making preparations to resume trading its stores once the government restrictions are lifted, with the filing of a NOI in the UK a first step in that process. 

"The group is preparing to enter a 'light touch' administration that will see the existing management team remain in place under the direct control and supervision of the administrators," it said. 

It has the support of its lenders who plan to provide the funding for the administration and continues to fully engage with all suppliers while operating within a protective arrangement.

Debenhams went into administration in April last year, wiping out equity investors, including Mike Ashley's Sports Direct, and is now owned by lenders consortium Celine UK NewCo 1 Ltd. 

It today appointed Geoff Rowley and Alastair Massey of FRP Advisory to advise in relation to the possible administration. 

"With (owners and lenders) support and working with other key stakeholders, including landlords, pension trustees and business partners, we are striving to protect jobs and reopen as many Debenhams stores for trading as we can, as soon as this is possible," CEO Stefaan Vansteenkiste said.

Debenhams added that it continues to trade online across the UK, Ireland and Denmark and customer orders, gift cards and returns are being accepted and processed normally. 

A spokesperson for Debenhams confirmed that its 11 Irish stores are unaffected by the decision to place the UK outlets into administration.

Debenhams Retail Ireland Ltd exited examinership in 2016, having entered the process after it said that high rents at its Irish outlets were making its business here unsustainable.

It has a number of shops in Dublin, as well as in Newbridge in Co Kildare, Galway, Limerick, Tralee, Cork and Waterford.