House of Fraser Oxford Street flagship gets reprieve
House of Fraser's London flagship on Oxford Street is no longer slated for closure, new owner Sports Direct announced on Tuesday. The giant store had been one of the surprise casualties on the retailer’s CVA-linked closure list several months ago but Sports Direct said the store will stay open and continue to be “fully operational”.
The company had earlier also said that it would try to keep many more of the company’s stores open than the 29 that had been planned under the CVA.
“This deal only happened because all parties realised it was better to keep the store open and fully operational,” James Keany, head of national agency at CBRE, which is advising Sports Direct on the HoF properties, said. “It was a real case of landlord and tenant genuinely working together and at great speed. Everyone was sensible about the terms of the transaction.”
The new owner’s head of elevation Michael Murray added: “We said we would keep as many stores open as possible, and in less than a week we have saved the biggest store. Oxford street was meant to close in January and now it’s safe, which is great news for all parties. Everyone must remember it was a bust business and we need landlords, councils and brands to pull together to save House of Fraser on the high street.”
The Oxford Street store had originally been a branch of DH Evans, before HoF changed its name. It’s in the heart of department store territory with Debenhams its neighbour on one side and John Lewis on the other. Selfridges is just down the road while Liberty is around the corner just behind Regent Street.
That makes Oxford Street a real destination for anyone who likes shopping in department stores. Of course, the problem is that there are fewer people these days who are department store fans. The West End of London has already seen some of its once-unassailable department stores closing down, including Bourne & Hollingsworth further up Oxford Street and Dickins and Jones (another name owned by HoF) on Regent Street.
The big question now is whether Mike Ashley and Sports Direct can make a go of the Oxford Street store and the other high street branches that could also be reprieved. In recent months it has been revealed that other department store businesses had looked at buying House of Fraser over the years with ex-Selfridges chief Peter Williams saying he had spent some time considering a purchase, but that the stores needed an upgrade and would be expensive to put right.
Ashley will be hoping that his plan to import branches of Sports Direct and upscale Flannels into some of the stores will be enough to provide an extra draw that could buy him some time while the store portfolio can be upgraded.
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