DEBENHAMS is preparing to go into administration, it has been reported.

The department store has said it is “making contingency plans” in a bid to secure its future.

Debenhams, which has already been in administration once, has closed 22 stores this year and plans to shut another 28 next year.

Its Bournemouth store in the Square has so far escaped the cull, but its disappearance would leave another huge gap in a town centre which recently saw the demise of its first department store, Beales.

The BBC reported that Debenhams could appoint administrators next week to protect it against claims from creditors as it restructures its business. It understood that Debenhams was concerned about potential legal claims from suppliers who had not been paid.

A Debenhams spokesman said: “Like all retailers, Debenhams is making contingency plans reflecting the extraordinary current circumstances.

“Our owners and lenders remain highly supportive and whatever actions we may take will be with a view to protecting the business during the current situation.

“While our stores remain closed in line with government guidance, and the majority of our store-facing colleagues have been furloughed, our website continues to trade and we are accepting customer orders, gift cards and returns,” he added.

Debenhams fell into the hands of its lenders a year ago after going into administration.

The rescue deal put paid to a campaign by Mike Ashley, owner of the Sports Direct and House of Fraser chains, to gain control of its department stores.

Mr Ashley had held 30 per cent of the shares and wanted to rescue the company if he could become the boss.

Debenhams said last December that it had secured an extra £50million of funding to help win over customers in the run-up to Christmas.

However, the coronavirus crisis has dealt a fresh blow to beleaguered bricks and mortar retailers.

Last month was the worst on record for high street shops, according to the latest BDO sales tracker, which said total like-for-like sales fell 17.9 per cent for the month.

Debenhams’ Bournemouth store has been a fixture in the town since 1915, when the purpose-built store opened as Bobby & Co.

The Bobby & Co stores later became part of the Debenhams group and the Bournemouth store was rebranded in 1972.