Jim Armitage: Expect House of Fraser store closuresComments Off on Jim Armitage: Expect House of Fraser store closures
While Sports Direct claims it will not be closing House of Fraser’s stores yet, that won’t last for long. Expect dozens to be shutting down in the coming months, with the loss of many thousands of jobs.
While they will pity the staff, House of Fraser’s retail rivals will not mourn these shops’ demise.
Thanks to Chinese funny money, these tired old places have been kept alive long after their time, taking a cut of the dwindling customer spend from Debenhams, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Arcadia and the rest.
Now, while such rivals will still have dozens of stores to trade against under the skilled ownership of Mike Ashley, at least they’ll get a clearer run in many towns and cities across the UK where he’ll be pulling HoF out.
However, the process of closing the expected 30 or so doomed stores will be messy and painful for everyone in the run-up to Christmas.
After all, in each of those towns, from Altrincham to Aylesbury, HoF’s High Street neighbours will be competing against the mother and father of all closing-down sales as Ashley clears as much stock as he can.
Even before the closure, HoF has been running 70% discounts on some lines. Under the previous plan to shut 31 sites, 19 were in the same town as a Debenhams and eight are near a John Lewis. Similar stock, 40%, 50% or 60% discounts.
It’s not only rival chains who’ll suffer. Ashley will have to manage how the surviving HoFs compete against the closing-down sales. They may not be in the same town, but many aren’t far away. And the stock won’t just be similar, but identical.
In the long run, all the High Street’s survivors will benefit from HoF’s partial demise, but it will be a hard road getting there.