House of Fraser announced yesterday that it intends to close 31 out of its 59 shops as the only option left to stop the entire operation collapsing.
The company’s chairman Frank Slevin said: “Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base which, without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.”
The largest House of Fraser to close is on London’s Oxford Street, where it occupies one of the most valuable retail locations in the country.
If the plan is approved, 2,000 House of Fraser employees will be made redundant, along with 4,000 people in brand and concession roles.
One of the biggest concession partners is Fossil Group, which runs the watch business for House of Fraser under the Watch Station brand name.
Watch Station sells many Fossil Group brands, including Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, Fossil and Skagen alongside watches from competitors such as Hugo Boss, Daniel Wellington and Storm London.
Fossil Group declined to comment on the impact of the House of Fraser closures, which will see stores shuttered in Altrincham, Aylesbury, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Camberley, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chichester, Cirencester, Cwmbran, Darlington, Doncaster, Edinburgh Frasers, Epsom, Grimsby, High Wycombe, Hull, Leamington Spa, Lincoln, London Oxford Street, London King William Street, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Skipton, Swindon, Telford, Wolverhampton and Worcester.
The market for high volume, inexpensive watches has been in gradual decline since 2014 in the UK, with physical stores finding it particularly challenging to profit in an era of rising internet sales and increasing costs for rent, business rates and staff salaries.