THE future of Kidderminster’s Debenhams store has been thrown into doubt after bosses announced plans to axe up to 50 of its high street shops, putting 4,000 jobs at risk.

The ailing retailer announced huge losses and said it was having to make tough decisions after recording a loss of £491.5million in the year to September 1 – the biggest in its history.

The loss compares with a £59 million profit in 2017.

At this stage, it is unclear whether the Weaver’s Wharf branch or sister stores in Redditch and Worcester are affected.

The group has said the closures will take place over a three to five year period and the announcement comes alongside a dire set of financial figures.

Boss Sergio Bucher said: “It has been a tough year for retail in 2018 and our performance reflects that. We are taking decisive steps to strengthen Debenhams in a market that remains volatile and challenging.

“We are taking tough decisions on stores where financial performance is likely to deteriorate over time.”

The store closures will reduce the Debenhams estate to about 100 and come on top of 10 earmarked earlier this year.

Mr Bucher added: “Debenhams remains a strong and trusted brand with 19 million customers shopping with us over the past year.

“With a strengthened balance sheet, we will focus investment behind our strategic priorities and ensure that Debenhams has a sustainable and profitable future.

“I can promise my 26,000 staff across the UK that we will work very hard to protect as many stores and as many jobs as we can.”

Debenhams is also the subject of takeover talk, with speculation building that Mike Ashley is set to merge it with his newly-acquired House of Fraser.

The Sports Direct tycoon owns just under 30 per cent of Debenhams, close to the threshold at which he must launch an official takeover bid.