By Kate Brown
Department store House of Fraser is to close over 50% of its stores, affecting 6,000 jobs, as part of a rescue deal. House of Fraser chairman, Frank Slevin, said that closing stores was a difficult decision but due to the “fundamental changes” in the retail industry “it is absolutely necessary if we are to continue to trade and be competitive”. Accountancy firm KMPG, who are overseeing the insolvency process, said that the firm has faced “mounting pressures facing the UK high street”.
The 31 stores identified for closure are: Altrincham • Aylesbury • Birkenhead • Birmingham • Bournemouth • Camberley • Cardiff • Carlisle • Chichester • Cirencester • Cwmbran • Darlington • Doncaster • Edinburgh Frasers • Epsom • Grimsby • High Wycombe • Hull • Leamington Spa • Lincoln • London Oxford Street • London King William Street • Middlesbrough • Milton Keynes • Plymouth • Shrewsbury • Skipton • Swindon • Telford • Wolverhampton • Worcester.
In addition to store closures, House of Fraser is seeking a 25% rent cut on 10 of the 28 stores that will remain open. However landlords have called for a government review of struggling retailers asking for these rent reductions. Currently, under the insolvency process called a Company Voluntary Agreement, companies are abusing and misusing the process as a way to negotiate rent reductions and cut costs or close unprofitable stores whilst keeping profitable outlets open.
2018 has seen the UK high street go into crisis with other stores including Toys R Us, Maplin and Prezzo announcing store closures. Experts say the closures are due to: squeezed incomes; online shopping; changing consumer behaviour; rising overheads; debts.