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The department store has gone into administration.

It’s no surprise that Debenhams has been struggling, with rumours abound for ages that it couldn’t cope with the realities of modern shopping.

Now it’s entered into administration, meaning it’s searching for new owners. This could happen, as it did with HMV earlier this year. Or it could end up like Maplin and close down completely.

For now though it’s apparently business as usual. But should you shop there? Here’s what you need to know to protect your money and your purchases:

Use gift cards now

Gift cards are still valid. But that could change if new buyers change their mind – or the administrators fail to find anyone who wants to take the chain on. And if that happens the cards become worthless bits of plastic.

So check your wallets, purses and random drawers where you put stuff to sort at a later date. If you have a gift card or voucher use it now.

It’s also best not to buy any new ones as gifts. I popped into my local store on the morning administration was announced and they were still selling them. It’s a big risk.

Shop in store rather than online

The high street dilemma rears it’s head again. Avoid going to Debenhams and it’s more likely to fail. But at the same time there are greater risks buying from a shop that could be about to go under.

Personally I’d be wary of using the Debenhams website as there’s no guarantee your order will be shipped quickly. If it went bust and you hadn’t received your order you might not get it at all.

At least if you go to an actual shop you can walk out with your purchase. And if it’s something you know you need at the right price, then it’s not necessarily a bad buy

Use a credit card for big purchases

If something you’re buying costs more than £100, then pay for it with a credit card. This gives you added consumer protection as should Debenhams go bust and something goes wrong with your order the credit card company will refund you.

This is only for individual purchases over £100, not a total spend of £100. So it won’t cover four shirts at £25 each, but it would cover a coat of £100.

Returns policies could change

Right now you can take back items within 28 days for a full refund as per Debenhams’ returns policy. But it could be changed by any new owners.

This could stop you getting your money back if you change your mind, so think carefully about what you’re buying.

And if you’ve anything waiting at home to be returned do it now!

Some shops are likely to close

Debenhams already had plans to close up to 50 of its 166 stores in the next few years. and that, or at least something similar, could still happen.

With HMV closures happened very quickly in some places, with shops shutting overnight. So again, don’t delay spending those gift cards or returning items in case you no longer have a shop to go to!

The flip side is there could be clearance sales of impacted stores. So keep an eye out as you might be able to make some big savings.

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