May 9, 2019
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House of Fraser plans mini luxury multibrand store chain

May 9, 2019

We’ve heard Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley frequently repeating the fact that he wants House of Fraser to be the “Harrods of the high street” and now it seems that part of his strategy could be happening soon with reports that he’s planning to turn some branches into mini designer label emporiums.

Glasgow's Frasers could be the first of the House of Fraser stores to become a designer hub - Wikimedia

He wants to rename up to seven stores as Frasers and have them carry more designer brands with the rest of the chain of more-than-50 stores focusing on a more mass-market consumer.

This is a development from his earlier plan that that saw him mulling the idea of moving large-scale concessions of his Sports Direct and Flannels chains into a number of stores. High-end retailer Flannels already carries a wider variety of premium and luxury labels.

The Guardian reported that Ashley has informed suppliers of the plan already and that he’s expected to invest tens of millions of pounds into the strategy for the company that cost him £90 million when he bought it out of administration last year.

The designer chain plan is expected to start with the Glasgow flagship, the lease of which he earlier bought for £95 million. That store has long traded under the Frasers name. The Belfast store is reportedly also in line for the designer-focused upgrade.

A source told the newspaper that the initial test phase of the plan could see three or four store seeing rebranded. And another source said: “He’s going to do it properly and he’s not worried about the money he’s losing while he works on his plan. He has no doubt about what he wants to do.”

An official announcement is expected “within weeks” with Ashley having been buoyed by the success of the Flannels chain and believing that there’s a gap in the market for higher-end stores.

Of course he needs to get brands on his side and many of those brands have been left bruised by the House of Fraser administration process with a number of UK names in particular having said the failed chain had owed them amounts adding up to millions of pounds.

There have been concerns in recent weeks that little appears to have been done to get House of Fraser back to full health with the question of how many of its stores might eventually close still being wide open and some landlords approaching the end of their one-year reduced rent deals with the company.

A number of upscale brands have moved out of HoF as a result and some stores are looking very unappealing.

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