House of Fraser
The chain warns it “does not have a viable future” unless its proposals to axe 31 stores are accepted by creditors and landlords.
By James Sillars, business reporter
The company, whose roots can be traced back to 1849, warned it did “not have a viable future” unless creditors and landlords backed its proposals.
Its flagship store – on Oxford Street in London – is among 31 of 59 stores facing the axe.
Sky News has previously reported on House Of Fraser’s struggle to secure its financial future – culminating in Wednesday’s plan to seek a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) and avoid falling into administration.
It said that in addition to its Chinese shareholder taking a 51% stake and injecting millions in new funding, House of Fraser planned to shut the stores across its UK and Ireland network by early 2019 and relocate its main offices to save cash.
It said those changes would affect 2,000 of the 5,000 people it employs directly and 4,000 brand and concession partner staff who had already been informed.
A general view of House of Fraser on Oxford Street, London, following an earlier incident.
Its flagship Oxford Street store in central London is scheduled to close
HoF chief executive Alex Williamson said: “Today’s announcement is one of the most important in this company’s 169-year history.
“We, as a management team, have a responsibility to take necessary steps to ensure House of Fraser’s survival, which is why we are making these proposals.
“We are fully committed to supporting those personally affected by the proposals.”
House of Fraser is the latest big name to seek a CVA to avoid becoming a casualty of the crisis that has been facing retailers – with some of the pain self-inflicted as rising rents have combined with a trend away from high streets to online shopping.
Consumers have also been feeling the pinch from Brexit-linked price rises and weak wage growth – factors which claimed Toys R Us UK and Maplin.
Maplin and Toys R Us are the two main retail casualties so far this year
Mothercare, Carpetright, Carphone Warehouse, Homebase and even the discounter Poundworld are among chains feeling the strain.
Ahead of HoF’s announcement on Wednesday the British Property Federation., which represents landlords, called on the Government to conduct an urgent review of CVAs – claiming some applicants were mis-using the process.
It accused such firms of “undermining the UK’s global reputation and deterring much-needed investment into our town and city centres, at a time when it is arguably more important than ever that the UK demonstrates it is open for business.”
Frank Slevin, chairman of House of Fraser, said of its CVA: “The retail industry is undergoing fundamental change and House of Fraser urgently needs to adapt to this fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive.
“Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.
“So whilst closing stores is a very difficult decision, especially given the length of relationship House of Fraser has with all its locations, there should be no doubt that it is absolutely necessary if we are to continue to trade and be competitive.”
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It will need to secure 75% support in a 22 June vote among creditors and landlords – the latter said to be most vocal in expressing serious concerns.