Business

Mike Ashley vows to keep most House of Fraser stores open

House of Fraser Image copyright Getty Images

Mike Ashley has vowed to keep open the bulk of the 59 House of Fraser stores he bought last week.

"In a year's time you can hold my feet to the fire on that," the founder of Sports Direct told the Sun.

His company paid £90m for House of Fraser on Friday, just hours after it went into administration.

Mr Ashley wants to turn the department store chain into the "Harrods of the high street" with personal shopping services.

Sports Direct bought all the stores, including the 31 that had been earmarked for closure under a previous restructuring plan that has now been abandoned.

Mr Ashley has promised to keep 80% of the chain's 59 stores open and has appointed property experts from CBRE to advise him in negotiations with landlords.

In the interview he told the chain's landlords: "Give us a chance and we will try to keep as many open as we can. We are here to get House of Fraser back to where it once was."

Mr Ashley also owns the designer chain Flannels, which sells brands such as Burberry and Fendi, and he says he wants more luxury brands sold by House of Fraser.

Entire floors in larger stores such as the Birmingham outlet could be transformed into Flannels or Sports Direct, he told the Sun.

"We think the biggest and most important thing House of Fraser is missing is luxury brands. We think it will make a big difference."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mike Ashley paid £90m for House of Fraser last week

He also gave more information about his aim to take House of Fraser more up-market.

"In Harrods you get some exceptional services. What we would like to do is introduce a 'concierge click and collect' at House of Fraser.

"When you go online and say you want to collect goods in-store, you should be able to book a time, book a changing room and book a stylist.

"You get that kind of personal shopping service in a Harrods. There's no reason why it couldn't be rolled out nationally across House of Fraser."

As the retailer went into administration before being bought by Sports Direct, suppliers face losses on the stock they had already supplied to the department store chain.

House of Fraser has two main types of relationships with its suppliers: wholesalers, who get paid whether or not their stock is sold, or concession holders, who are paid after their items are sold.

Philip Day, a rival retailer who had ambitions to buy House of Fraser, has called on Mr Ashley to pay suppliers "in full".

The administrators to House of Fraser, EY, said that Sports Direct was the only bidder for the chain on Friday.

"EY were appointed administrators on Friday 10 August at approximately 8am and subsequently sold the business and its assets to the Sports Direct Group at approximately 9am," the administrators said.

"For the avoidance of doubt this was the only available offer to save the business and in comparison to the alternatives represented by far the best recovery for the creditors of House of Fraser," EY added.

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