"TIME is running out" to secure the future of Newport's landmark Debenhams store, the company has warned, following talks with the Welsh Government.

Earlier this week the Argus reported the Welsh Government's decision to place a cap on Non-Domestic Rates (NDR) relief during the coronavirus pandemic, meaning businesses with a rateable value of more than £500,000 are not eligible for relief, could put the future of the store at risk. No such cap is in place over the border in England.

Talks are ongoing between Debenhams' chairman Mark Gifford and the Welsh Government over a possible reversal of the cap - but whether these will bear fruit remains unclear.


Mr Gifford has previously said the companies five stores in Wales - in Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, Llandudno and Wrexham - would not be able to re-open unless the cap was scrapped. However, thanks to the support of the local authority, the store in Wrexham is now planned to re-open once government restrictions allow.

Debenhams claim that the Welsh Government’s approach unfairly penalises larger retailers which ‘anchor’ shopping centres.

Debenhams chairman Mark Gifford said: "Time is running out to save Debenhams' four largest stores in Wales.

"I had a constructive conversation with Rebecca Evans this week but the reality is we need a favourable decision if these stores are to be re-opened and precious jobs saved.

"The way the rating system works, and relies on outdated rental values, is a UK-wide problem.

"This is combined with the Welsh Government’s stance to penalise large retailers."

Speaking in the Senedd this week, MS (Member of the Senedd) for Monmouth Nick Ramsay asked minister for finance Rebecca Evans whether the cap would be extended to cover large businesses.

"This is a clear warning sign," he said. "If these stores don't reopen after the pandemic, there will be significant knock-on effects for the economy.

"Many of my constituents rely on the Newport store.

"Will you listen to them and review your decision to exclude shops with a rateable value over £500,000 from being able to access support?"

Replying, Ms Evans said: "Welsh Government wants Debenhams to succeed.

"It is important in terms of supporting some of our high streets in particular, as one of those anchor stores.

"I will reflect on the discussions we had yesterday.

"I don't think it would be fair on Debenhams if I were to go into too much of the detail."

The Argus is backing a campaign to overturn the cap to secure the future of the Newport store, which employs around 120 people.