House of Fraser said in June this year that it would close 31 out of its 59 shops as the only option left to stop the entire operation collapsing. That plan failed, and the department store giant went into administration, leaving the jobs of 3,500 people in doubt. It also looked like Fossil Group, which runs the Watch Station concessions inside HoF stores, would lose a vast amount of physical retail space across the country.
When Sports Direct bought the business out of administration for £90 million over the summer, new owner Mike Ashley promised he would try to save as many of the stores as possible.
That promise has been delivered with a plan that has saved 20 stores from closure thanks to landlords accepting new terms and conditions.
Outlets in Edinburgh, Hull, and Swindon will will still be closing after a failure to negotiate new rent terms.
Mr Ashley said in a statement: “We’ve showed what we can achieve on the British high street when we work together with landlords. I am disappointed that in my opinion a small number of greedy landlords still refuse to be reasonable.”
It is understood that landlords are reluctant to agree to the low, or in some cases zero, rents Mr Ashley is demanding.
He continued: “I am calling on everybody to pull together, including landlords and local authorities in order to help to save as many House of Fraser stores and jobs as possible on the great British high street.”
The following stores will remain open: Altrincham, Aylesbury, Birkenhead, Camberley, Carlisle, Darlington, Doncaster, Grimsby, High Wycombe, Lincoln, London (Oxford Street), Middlesbrough, Plymouth, Skipton, Telford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Maidstone, Solihull and Sutton Coldfield.
The House of Fraser store on London’s Oxford Street occupies one of the most valuable retail locations in the country and its closure would have been a blow to Fossil Group.
The group was bracing for worse news when it published its 2017 accounts earlier this year. A statement from Richard Collins, Fossil Group’s UK managing director, warned: “An announcement has been made by House of Fraser after the reporting date that they have secured a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) which will result in the closure of 24 stores that hold Fossil concessions from early 2019. The remaining 27 stores that hold Fossil concessions will continue trading.”