Landlords losing patience
Doubts over Ashley’s House of Fraser stores plan
The store in Edinburgh closed and is poised to become a whisky visitor centre (pic: Terry Murden)
Pressure is mounting on retail tycoon Mike Ashely to decide the future of his House of Fraser empire amid concerns that more will close as he dithers over agreeing rental deals.
The Sports Direct majority owner said he intended to keep about 50% of the 59 stores open after acquiring them from the administrator last August for £90 million.
However, doubts have been expressed over his plan to turn the stores into a Harrod’s of the North after the landlord of Rackhams in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, served him with a notice to leave the premises, part of the HoF group, and said others could follow suit.
M&M Asset Management, which owns the Stamford Quarter shopping centre that includes the store, agreed to accept no rent for a year under a short-term lease. It s one of dozens of similar contracts thought to expire in September.
Iain Minto, M&M’s shopping centre director, told The Guardian that the company could not give Ashley any more time to decide on the site’s future and had decided instead to redevelop it as flats and smaller residential units.
“We can’t sit around and wait forever for House of Fraser to do something,” said Minto.
“Sports Direct have been in this building for nine months and at the moment they’re still trying work out what to do with the wider business. We don’t want the building to sit there forever and a day, we want to invest in the town.”
Richard Hyman, a retail analyst, told the newspaper that it was likely that despite Ashley’s rhetoric about saving House of Fraser, the tycoon was unlikely to be concerned at the prospect of losing stores.
“People may have been naive to think that these shops would be saved as retail businesses trading as House of Fraser, which is clearly not viable as it is.”
Debenhams chief steps down
Debenhams boss Sergio Bucher has stepped down following the recent takeover of the struggling department store chain by its lenders.
Mr Buchere said on Thursday it was “time to move on, knowing the company is in good hands”.
Terry Duddy, non-executive chairman, will become interim executive chairman.
Debenhams is the biggest department store chain in the UK with 166 stores. It employs about 25,000 people.