Debenhams will file for administration after the coronavirus lockdown forced it to shut its shop across the UK.
It described the process as a “light touch” administration to protect it from legal action from creditors while its department stores are closed.
Debenhams boss Stefaan Vansteenkiste said the circumstances of the decision were “unprecedented”.
“We have taken this step to protect our business, our employees, and other important stakeholders,” he said.
Mr Vansteenkiste said it will allow Debenhams “to resume trading from our stores when government restrictions are lifted”.
However, he did not say how many of its 142 shops would reopen after the lockdown.
“We are striving to protect jobs and reopen as many Debenhams stores for trading as we can, as soon as this is possible,” he said.
It will be the second time in a year that Debenhams has filed for administration. It has already closed 22 stores this year and plans to shut a further 28 in 2021.
The retailer said it is still trading online “normally” while its shops are closed.
It has furloughed the majority of its staff who are being paid under the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme which pays 80% of a worker’s salary up to £2,500 a month.
“Debenhams has been in financial difficulties for a while so this doesn’t come as a major surprise,” said Julie Palmer, regional managing partner at restructuring firm Begbies Traynor.
“But it will leave its 20,000 plus strong workforce in a precarious position who will struggle to get new employment during the ongoing uncertainty.”