Some brands supplying House of Fraser are delaying committing to orders for spring 19 because of continuing uncertainty about store closures at the department store chain.
The Sports Direct-owned retailer confirmed last week it will keep the Manchester branch of House of Fraser open, following negotiations with landlords. Around 568 jobs have been saved at the department store.
However, several HoF stores will close early next year, including branches in Intu shopping centres in Nottingham, Norwich, Lakeside in Essex and the Metrocentre in Gateshead, after Sports Direct and the landlord failed to agree new rental terms.
Sports Direct is in negotiations with landlords on many others, leaving the total number of operational stores trading next year in question. As a result, some suppliers have told Drapers that they are being cautious for the coming season.
“We haven’t committed for 2019 yet,” the UK managing director of one menswear brand said. “We are waiting to see how it goes this winter.
“They won’t give us an answer on the number of stores they will be trading [next year] and they are discounting heavily at the moment. We had to speak to them about taking our product off Sale. If it happens again, we won’t sign up for next year.”
The chief executive of a brand that operates concessions in numerous House of Fraser stores said he is treading carefully: “We are having to play it carefully for spring 19 and we expect the stock offering in concessions to be a bit weak.
“We don’t know what’s happening with the stores and it’s unfair for us to have to take the hit for that. We’re maintaining our stock in fabric but producing the product when we know it’s needed and planning for autumn instead.
“We have confidence that House of Fraser will get there, but it’s going to be a difficult season.”
However, others are more optimistic.
One young fashion agent said: “I think [HoF] is in safe hands. We obviously don’t know which stores are closing yet, which is concerning, but orders for next season were placed before [it went into administration] and we’ve stuck to them.”
The UK head of one menswear brand is also fulfilling orders as usual for spring: “We have committed to our spring 19 order and we’ve been issued purchase orders. It’s tricky for [House of Fraser], there’s a big cultural change but they are communicating with us. We open next week for autumn 19 orders and I am expecting them to make an appointment.
”They’re trying to keep the high street going and save jobs. I want to support that.”
Drapers has contacted Sports Direct for comment.