House of Fraser confirms plans to close more than half of its stores

 
Alys Key
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House of Fraser Profits Down For 2017
House of Fraser will put the plans to creditors this month (Source: Getty)

House of Fraser is to close 31 of its 59 stores in a plan to dramatically restructure the chain, in a move its chief executive described as "grim".

If approved by creditors, the move will result in the loss of 6,000 jobs: 2,000 House of Fraser employees and 4,000 brand concession staff.

The full list of closures includes the flagship Oxford Street store and the City of London branch.

Read more: House of Fraser closures list: Oxford Street and City branches to be axed

The head office in Baker Street will also be moved to a new location in a bid to further cut its cost base.

In a kind of insolvency process called a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), House of Fraser's creditors will vote on the proposals on 22 June.

If it passes, this will firm up the deal announced last month to sell a 51 per cent stake in House of Fraser to Hamleys owner C.banner.

The stores slated to close are expected to stay open until early 2019.

Frank Slevin, chairman of House of Fraser, said that a dated store estate represented 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," he said.

The decision came amid growing pressure for the CVA system to be scrutinised.

The British Property Federation (BPF) this morning called for the government to urgently review the process.

Ian Fletcher, BPF's director of real estate policy, told City A.M. that some CVAs are seen as "simply lease-stripping exercises" by landlords.

House of Fraser's chief executive Alex Williamson even said he agreed with the BPF this morning.

"We align ourselves to the BPF in this not being a solution that should be abused," he said.

He added: "There are too many case studies of CVAs that have not worked and this is not going to be one of them."

Meanwhile MP Clive Betts, who chairs the housing, communities and local government select committee, said that CVAs could come under scrutiny in his committee's high street inquiry.

“The problems at House of Fraser highlight once again the myriad of challenges faced by high street retailers, including rising rents and business rates and the threat of online shopping," he said. "The use of CVAs and the impact this can have on landlords is also an element of this debate. The HCLG Committee’s High Streets inquiry is looking ahead to how town centres will look in 2030 and we will no doubt receive a range of evidence submissions on the variety of issues which may impact on the future health of our high streets in the years ahead.”

Read more: House of Fraser Group crashes to £44m loss in 2017

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