House of Fraser’s womenswear overhaul, revealed last week by Drapers, is the final stages of a year-long redevelopment of its Oxford Street flagship that it hopes will underline its position as a prestige department store.
The 63-store chain has eliminated a floor of womenswear at the store, ousting 14 brands including James Lakeland, Austin Reed, Viyella, CC and Desigual making way for a larger accessories department that will include footwear.
Portas is set to open four more shop-in-shops, at HoF Westfield London, Glasgow, Manchester and Guildford. For spring 12, Danish womenswear label Selected Femme will be added to the concept.
Mainstream womenswear brand James Lakeland and Austin Reed will continue to be sold in other HoF stores via concessions and on the HoF website. The impact of being removed from Oxford Street will be felt more keenly by smaller wholesale-only brands.
One brand owner expressed concern, saying the shortfall from the £1m-plus turnover at Oxford Street would have to be made up via alternative channels, such as online.
Meanwhile, Nick Hollingworth, chief executive of Austin Reed, said coming out of Oxford Street wasn’t a “big deal” for the retailer.
Last September, Austin Reed opened its own enlarged flagship on London’s Regent Street. It has pulled out of other “underperforming” HoF stores, Hollingworth said, along with CC and Viyella, which it owns.
He added: “Over the years, [department stores] got to a point where they were just landlords renting out space to brands. This means they don’t have to invest in the stock.”
HoF said the changes were part of a “constant review” of its offer. “As part of this, certain brands depart from and launch in various stores in the portfolio, keeping the experience fresh and exciting for our customers.”