House of Fraser is to close its flagship store on London’s Oxford Street in January, in the latest blow to the UK’s prime high street.
The department store chain, which is owned by Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, said it was being forced to exit the building after being served notice by its landlord.
The announcement comes just days after the building’s owners, understood to be the German Conle family, won planning permission to redevelop the site into six floors of offices with retail on the ground floor, a pool and gym in the basement, and a rooftop restaurant. Work is understood to have already begun on the project, which is expected to take two years.
A spokesperson for Frasers, which also owns the Sports Direct and Flannels clothing chains, said: “It is with regret that we have been served notice by the landlord to close House of Fraser, Oxford Street – following planning permission being granted to redevelop the site.
“Since acquiring [House of Fraser] in 2018, despite challenges faced, we have worked collaboratively with the landlord to keep the store trading three years longer than what was initially proposed by the previous owner.”
It is understood the store could go back into a smaller part of the building once the redevelopment is complete.
House of Fraser had 59 stores when it was bought out of administration by Ashley’s retail group. It now has 43 stores, but that number will decrease to 41 by the end of January after the closure of the Oxford Street store and another in Swindon, which is scheduled to shut in December.
The chain has dwindled as some landlords have sought higher paying tenants or new uses for their buildings. Frasers has also closed outlets as part of efforts to reduce costs as department stores face heavy competition from online shopping and specialist rivals.
House of Fraser is not alone in closing stores. Rival department store Debenhams exited the high street entirely this year, after it went bust and was bought by the online specialist Boohoo. Beales now trades from just a handful of stores after entering administration last year, while John Lewis has closed 16 outlets in the last two years.
The House of Fraser store at 318 Oxford Street began as D H Evans, an extension of a Drapers store founded by Welshman Dan Harries Evans in the 1800s. The present building was constructed in 1937. It traded under the DH Evans name until 2001 when it switched to House of Fraser, the parent group which has owned the store since the 1950s.
Frasers suggested more stores were under threat without a change in the government’s property tax policy.
“As a business, who is continuing to invest significantly into the British high street, we feel it’s only fair to recognise and request an urgent review of the current archaic business rates, which continue to be astonishingly outdated. If business rates were reviewed it would support the future of House of Fraser. Without this, further store closures are inevitable.”
Jace Tyrrell, the chief executive of New West End, the trade body that represents more than 600 central London retailers, restaurants and other consumer businesses, said the transformation of the House of Fraser site was part of a necessary reinvention of Oxford Street, one in which offices would take over the upper floors of many retail sites.
“We need less retail and more of a mix,” he said. “That is the only way that Oxford Street can survive in the future. Offices will provide customers for retailers, food and beverage [providers] and leisure.”