House of Fraser Westfield exit is its Central London finale, and key for UK department stores
It’s the end of a department store era as the House of Fraser banner has finally disappeared from Central London. The last HoF department store has closed its doors for the final time in the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, ending its long association with the capital.
The 115,000 sq ft site has been taken over by famous nightclub brand Ministry of Sound, which announced last June it would turn the venue into flexible offices, a gym for “fitness raves”, a dedicated members’ bar and a separate public-facing rooftop bar/restaurant, set to open in 2024. That's yet another example of how retail space is being repurposed for leisure and offices.
Frasers Group-owned HoF’s West London withdrawal follows the closure of its flagship store on Oxford Street 12 months ago, followed by the closure of the company’s 150-year-old department store in Victoria last summer. Its store in the City of London, close to London Bridge, shuttered three years earlier.
The latest closure is another big step in the retreat of the department stores sector as a whole from the centre of London.
Recent years have seen Debenhams exiting Oxford Street on to its acquisition by online-only Boohoo Group. Meanwhile Fenwick is to shut its Bond Street store and John Lewis is planning to downsize its Oxford Street flagship, something Liberty on Regent Street had already done. Dickins & Jones on Regent Street is also a distant memory.
The HoF Westfield exit means House of Fraser in suburban Croydon is now the branch closest to Central London.
The chain is left with about 30 stores in the UK – about half the number it had before being bought out of administration in 2018 by Frasers Group for £90 million.
HoF has shut a number of other stores in recent months including those in Leeds, Norwich and Huddersfield. Its High Wycombe branch is also slated for closure.
It’s a reflection of the contraction of the department stores sector across the UK as well as in Central London with the days long gone when every high street had a department store and every major mall had at least one as an anchor tenant.
Nowadays, such anchors are more likely to be big-name fashion specialists like H&M, Zara or Primark, as well as multi-category names like Next and M&S. Meanwhile Frasers continues to grow its upscale specialist Flannels business, with that chain taking on many aspects of a department store as it expands into key categories such as beauty.
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