House of Fraser (HoF) is aiming to cut around 6,000 jobs and more than half its stores under a plan to save the chain amid the crisis facing the high street
The company, whose roots can be traced back to 1849, warned it did “not have a viable future” unless creditors and landlords backed its proposals.
Its flagship store – on Oxford Street in London – is among 31 of 59 stores across the UK and Ireland facing the axe.
Sky News has previously reported on Hof’s struggle to secure its financial future – culminating in Wednesday’s plan to seek a so-called Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) and avoid falling into administration.
It said that in addition to its Chinese shareholder taking a 51% stake and injecting millions in new funding, House of Fraser planned to shut the stores across its UK and Ireland network by early 2019 and relocate its main offices to save cash.
It said those changes would affect 2,000 of the 5,000 people it employs directly and 4,000 brand and concession partner staff who had already been informed.
Image: Its flagship Oxford Street store in central London is scheduled to close
The stores it is seeking agreement to close 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 Willam Street, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Skipton, Swindon, Telford, Wolverhampton and Worcester.
Hof chief executive, Alex Williamson, said: “Today’s announcement is one of the most important in this company’s 169-year history.
“We, as a management team, have a responsibility to take necessary steps to ensure House of Fraser’s survival, which is why we are making these proposals.
“We are fully committed to supporting those personally affected by the proposals.”
House of Fraser is the latest big name to seek a CVA to avoid becoming another casualty of the crisis that has been facing retailers – with some of the pain self-inflicted as high rents have combined with a trend away from high streets to online shopping.
Consumers have also been feeling the pinch from Brexit-linked price rises and weak wage growth – factors which claimed Toys R Us UK and Maplin.
Mothercare, Carpetright, Carphone Warehouse, Homebase and even the discounter Poundworld are among chains feeling the strain.
Frank Slevin, chairman of House of Fraser, said: “The retail industry is undergoing fundamental change and House of Fraser urgently needs to adapt to this fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive.
“Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.
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“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.”