House of Fraser suppliers are in the dark over further House of Fraser store closures, as Frasers Group warns loss-making stores will shut within months.
Last month Mike Ashley, CEO of Frasers Group, formerly Sports Direct International, said he would have to decide on the closure of HoF stores within “months” and last week CFO Chris Wootton added the retailer has “begun close down procedures in some cases”.
This week, Frasers Group announced it is transforming its HoF store in Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre into a Frasers by early winter 2020.
Frasers Group is planning to change 31 House of Fraser stores into a premium chain under the Frasers name over the next five years. The first five stores will open in 2020 in Glasgow, Belfast, Sheffield, Liverpool and one yet to be named location.
HoF suppliers have said they have not been given any information the fate of the remaining HoF store portfolio.
“We’re stocked by a number of HoF concessionaires and when we were doing orders with them recently, they know very, very little about what was going on. They have a commercial reason to know but it’s very much tight lipped,” one supplier said.
“I think the only person who knows [how many stores might close] is Mike Ashley. No one knows. There’s talk of 30, there’s talk of 37 depending on what day of the week it is,” another supplier added.
“[Ashley] always been clear, he kept the portfolio trading saying, ‘I’ll give it a shot. I’ll see what I can do.’ He’s not paying rent [on some HoF stores] but he’s still saying publicly, ‘If I can’t make money and I’m not paying rent, what’s the future of the stores?”
One premium supplier said: “They were over-optimistic on how many [House of Fraser stores] they would keep. They’ve probably realised they now don’t need to have as many.
“Milton Keynes, for example, never went ahead because the landlord chose not to do a deal with them, so I think they’ll work with the landlords and where the landlords work with them, they’re progressing with those.”
Frasers Group declined to comment.