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Martin Lewis warns gift cards 'are NOT a safe buy' this Christmas

Martin Lewis has warned shoppers to avoid buying gift vouchers this Christmas following the collapse of Arcadia brands and Debenhams.

The London-based finance expert urged viewers of his ITV programme, The Martin Lewis Money Show Live, which aired last night, to avoid getting gift cards or 'use them quickly' if they'd already purchased them.

It comes as a number of high street shops are set to close, including all Debenhams and any Arcadia brand - such as Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Topshop. 

Arcadia recently announced that gift cards can only be used in full if shoppers spend double their value, for example, if you have a £10 voucher, you need to spend £20, while Debenhams is still giving customers 100 per cent face value.

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Martin Lewis (pictured) has warned shoppers to avoid buying gift vouchers this Christmas following the collapse of Arcadia brands and Debenhams

Arcadia recently announced that gift cards (pictured) can only be used in full if shoppers spend double their value, for example, if you have a £10 voucher, you need to spend £20, while Debenhams is still giving customers 100 per cent face value

Martin was asked on his show a question from a viewer concerned about what to do with the vouchers they had purchased for Topshop. 

Arcadia goes into administration with 13,000 workers facing the axe

Arcadia called in administrators on Monday, putting around 13,000 jobs at risk – which was followed a day later by Debenhams announcing it was starting a liquidation process after JD Sports pulled out of a possible rescue.

Arcadia's brands  appointed Deloitte to handle the next steps after the pandemic 'severely impacted' sales across its brands.

No redundancies have been announced as a result of the appointment and stores are continuing to trade, with many having reopened on Wednesday as England's lockdown lifted.

Deloitte said they were 'assessing all options available', which could see brands sold off in separate rescue deals.

Viewer Marilyn had bought her granddaughter a £50 gift card for the brand for Christmas, and asked: 'I was so upset that it's valued at half the cost. What can I do and can I get it refunded?'

Martin said: 'Gift vouchers are not safe, if a company goes into administration they're worth nothing.

'So look, I would use your voucher quickly if I were you, I'd get it used. I wouldn't though, if you don't want to spend it on something of that value, don't throw bad money away after good.

'I'd also buy in store, because if you deliver now and something were to happen with the administration, you wouldn't get the delivery. 

'As long as it's safe for you to go in store I'd go and use my voucher as quickly as possible.'

And he added: 'If you're thinking of giving gift vouchers for Christmas let this be a warning to you - don't do it.

'Be careful with gift vouchers this Christmas with so many retailers in trouble. Go and give them money to spend in there instead.' 

Although often a popular Christmas present, gift vouchers are subject to expiry dates – and will become redundant should the firm they are for collapse.

A spokesman for Arcadia's administrators, Deloitte, said: 'Gift cards remain valid in full across all the Arcadia brands. 

'The full value of a gift card can be put towards up to 50 per cent of a purchase.'

He added: 'Gift cards are currently being accepted in all stores and customers will be able to use them online from early next week.'  

Debenhams is set to disappear after 242 years on the British high street 

Shoppers are seen charging through the doors of one Debenhams department store on the first day of a sale at the height of its strength in 1977

Debenhams began as a draper business at 44 Wigmore Street in London in 1778. Initially founded by William Clark, William Debenham became a partner in the business in 1813 and changed the name to Clark & Debenham.

The business grew, opening branches in Cheltenham and Harrogate, before Clark retired in 1837 and it became Debenham, Pooley & Smith.

In 1851, it became Debenham & Freebody after Clement Freebody invested in the firm and it opened offices in South Africa, Australia, Canada and China.

It was incorporated as Debenhams Limited in 1905 and its new headquarters was completed in 1908 in west London's Wigmore Street.

The company began buying existing department stores across the country, including Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge in 1920.

Debenhams was listed as a company on the London stock exchange for the first time in 1928 and by 1950 became the largest department store group in the UK. At the time it owned 84 companies and 110 stores and in 1976 it acquired Brown's of Chester.

This was the only store to retain its name when all the other company's stores were rebranded Debenhams in 1977.  The company merged with the Burton Group in 1985 but demerged in 1998.

Belinda Earl became CEO in 2000 and Debenhams opened its largest British store in Birmingham's Bull Ring in 2003. But as profits fell Sports Direct bought 4.6 per cent of Debenhams shares in January 2014, and Mike Ashley secured 21 per cent of the company in August 2017. In March 2018, Debenhams reduced 320 store management roles across the business and Sports Direct's shares increased to 29.7 per cent.

The company announced its largest ever pre-tax loss of £491million in 2018 and the closure of up to 50 stores putting 4,000 jobs at risk. 

The company fell into the hands of its lenders, a group of banks and hedge funds led by US firm Silver Point Capital. And in April 2020 it announced it needed a buyer. The deal with JD Sports collapsed on December 1.

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