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|Founded||Glasgow, Scotland, UK (1849)|
|Headquarters||London, England, UK|
Number of locations
(CEO and majority owner of parent company)
Shoes & boots,
|Revenue||£1.152 billion (2013)|
|Owner||Sports Direct International|
Number of employees
House of Fraser is a British department store group with 54 stores across the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was established in Glasgow, Scotland in 1849 as Arthur and Fraser. By 1891, it was known as Fraser & Sons. The company grew steadily during the early 20th century, and after the Second World War a large number of acquisitions transformed the company into a national chain.
From 1936 onwards the company expanded substantially through acquisitions, including Scottish Drapery Corporation (1952), Binns (1953), Barkers of Kensington (1957), and Dickins & Jones and the Harrods group (1959). In 1948, the company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange. Later acquisitions included Howells (1972) and Army & Navy Stores (1973).
Ownership of the group passed to the Al Fayed family in 1985 (£615million), and in 1995 it was listed in the FTSE Index as House of Fraser plc, with Harrods moved into the private ownership of the Al Fayeds. In the 1990s several stores were closed and fifteen stores transferred to a joint venture with British Land Company, which then continued operating under their old name. The former Harrod group store D H Evans on Oxford Street, London was re-branded as House of Fraser in 2001 and became the chain's flagship store.
In 2005, the group acquired Jenners (£46m), and Beatties (£69m). In 2006, group was acquired by a consortium of investors (Highland Group Holdings) including Icelandic based Landsbanki (35%). An online store was launched in 2007. In 2014 the group (as Highland Group Holdings Ltd) was sold to Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store Co. (Sanpower Group), a leading chain of Chinese department stores for approximately £480 million.
In May 2018, the group entered a company voluntary arrangement, and in June the closure of 31 stores was announced. On 10 August 2018 Mike Ashley's Sports Direct chain agreed to buy the business (stores, stock, brand) for £90 million after the chain went into administration earlier that day.
The company established a wholesale trade in adjoining premises in Argyle Street. In 1856 the wholesale business moved to a larger site in Miller Street, Glasgow and started to trade under the name Arthur & Co. The retail side of the business expanded into the vacant buildings left by the wholesale side.
During the late 1850s and early 1860s the retail business was run by a professional manager – first Thomas Kirkpatrick and then Alexander McLaren. In 1865 the partnership between the partners was dissolved and Fraser assumed control of the retail business leaving Arthur with the wholesale business. In 1865 McLaren joined the retail business and the name was changed to Fraser & McLaren.
When the first Hugh Fraser died in 1873, his three eldest sons, James, John and Hugh, acquired stakes in the business. James and John Fraser were initially directors in the business and employed Alexander McLaren and later John Towers to manage it for them. In 1891 Hugh also joined the partnership which by then was called Fraser & Sons.
In 1879, the current flagship store on Oxford Street in London was opened by Dan Harries Evans, a 23-year-old from Whitemill in Carmarthenshire, Wales who had previously been apprenticed to a draper in Forest Hamlet near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. He moved to London in 1878 to set up his own business in Westminster Bridge Road. The store traded under the D H Evans name until 2001.
By 1900, Hugh Fraser II was in charge: he incorporated the business as Fraser & Sons Ltd in 1909 and introduced the famous stag's head motif.
After Hugh Fraser II died in 1927, his son Hugh Fraser III, an accountant, became Chairman of the business. He opened new departments, enlarged the tearoom, opened a restaurant and also began to look at possible acquisitions. In 1936 he purchased Arnott & Co Ltd and its neighbour Robert Simpson & Sons Ltd in nearby Argyle Street, merging the companies to help improve trade. In 1948 the Company, now named House of Fraser, was first listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In 1951, the Company purchased McDonald's Ltd, and with it a branch in Harrogate. Fraser then purchased the Scottish Drapery Corporation in 1952, followed by the Sunderland based Binns group of stores in 1953.
Fraser sold the property sites to insurance companies, leasing them back for long terms at advantageous rates. This enabled the release of capital for the purchase of new premises and the modernisation of existing stores. In 1957 the Kensington store group of John Barker & Co Ltd was acquired and in 1959 Harrods and Dickins & Jones also joined the Group.
Sir Hugh Fraser succeeded his father as Chairman of the company when his father died in 1966. Sir Hugh resumed the expansion of the company in 1969 with the takeover of J. J. Allen Ltd, a Bournemouth based group.
During the 1970s, the House of Fraser Group acquired more companies including: T. Baird & Sons Ltd of Scotland, Switzer & Co. Ltd of Dublin, Ireland, and E. Dingle & Co. Ltd, Chiesmans Ltd, Hide & Co and the Army & Navy Stores in southern England, as well as a number of independent stores, totaling over fifty stores during the decade. In 1973 the House of Fraser Group was considering merging with the British pharmacy company Boots, and was even subject to a written answer in the House of Commons. The government decided to ban the proposed merger in 1974.
In 1981, Prof. Roland Smith succeeded Sir Hugh Fraser as chairman. A takeover bid by Lonrho was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and declared to be contrary to the public interest. Four new stores opened between 1980 and 1984, including D H Evans in Wood Green, North London in 1980, Dickins & Jones in Milton Keynes in 1981, Frasers in Perth in April 1984, and Dickins & Jones in Epsom, Surrey in May 1984.
The company, by then House of Fraser PLC, diversified into sports goods under the name of Astral Sports and Leisure (subsequently sold to Sears plc, owned Olympus Sport division) and into funerals with Wylie & Lochhead. It also launched the 'You' range of cosmetics and jewellery shops, and in 1985 acquired Turnbull & Asser Holdings Ltd, shirt makers of Jermyn Street, London and Kurt Geiger Holdings Ltd, shoe retailers. Other developments during the 1980s included the introduction of "Lifestyle" merchandise ranges and a huge investment in store refurbishment nationwide. In 1983 the Company introduced the Frasercard (later renamed Recognition), valid at all stores and administered from a central facility based in Swindon.
In 1985, the Al Fayed family bought the business for £615 million. The Al Fayeds supported the continuing expansion of the Company and replaced the stag's head logo with a stag leaping from a green triangle with shop signs of this period using a double layered san serif typeface. In 1988, a five-year strategic business plan was announced which saw a rationalisation of stores. Small branches were to be relinquished and replaced with larger units.
In September 1990, two new department stores were opened, a House of Fraser in the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield, and Schofields in Leeds. In 1991, a new House of Fraser store was opened at the Lakeside Shopping Centre in West Thurrock, Essex.
In 1994, before House of Fraser PLC was relisted on the London Stock Exchange, Harrods was moved out of the Group so that it could remain under the private ownership of the Al Fayed family. John Coleman, who was appointed chief executive of the House of Fraser Group in 1996, launched the Linea brand in 1997, along with Platinum and Fraser the following year. The House of Fraser logo was revised in 1996 with the leaping stag now going over an "F" shadow and shop signs using a serif typeface. There were many store closures in this period which included the closure or selling off of branches in locations including Sheffield (House of Fraser), Newcastle (Binns), Sunderland (Binns), Bradford (Rackhams) and Leeds (Schofields which had closed only six years after opening although House of Fraser continued to have a presence with their Rackhams (now House of Fraser store) in the city) with the loss of around 1,000 jobs.
House of Fraser set up BL Fraser, a 50–50 joint venture with the British Land Company, in 1999 to buy 15 House of Fraser stores that would continue to be operated by House of Fraser. The Company added to its private-label brands in 2000 with House of Fraser womenswear, The Collection menswear, and a Linea Home.
In 2003, Tom Hunter put forward a hostile bid for the Group, with the possible intention to merge with Allders, another department store he had shareholdings in. In addition there was a large reduction in the number of House of Fraser stores in Scotland which included the sell off or closure of branches in Aberdeen (Frasers), Dundee (Arnotts), Inverness (Frasers), Paisley (Arnotts) and Perth (Frasers).
2005 was a year of growth for House of Fraser with the acquisition of the four Jenners department stores in April for £46m, and Beatties, a mainly Midlands based department store chain of 12 sites, for £69.3m in the summer of 2005. In addition to buying companies, House of Fraser continued its own development programme and opened several more stores including its first store outside the UK in Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin, Ireland. as well as stores in Maidstone and Norwich.
In 2006, the Company consolidated its portfolio by closing the 135-year-old Barkers business in Kensington High Street on 2 January 2006. and on 14 January 2006, closed its Dickins & Jones store in London's Regent Street following a substantial rent increase. In addition, the Company closed its Birmingham Beatties store in January 2006 (although retained the House of Fraser store in Birmingham).
In February 2006, the Group announced that it had received a preliminary bid approach valuing it at £300 million, and in August 2006 House of Fraser confirmed a takeover approach from the Highland consortium who acquired the Company for £351.4 million in November 2006. Highland Group Holdings Limited was 35% owned by Landsbanki.As part of the Highland takeover all brand names for their stores, including most of the Beatties branches, will be replaced with the House of Fraser name (with the exception of Jenners) with the stag logo axed and a new san serif typeface used on shop signs.
In September 2007, House of Fraser launched its online store.
The Company had four major openings in 2008, including its first store in Northern Ireland in the newly built Victoria Square Shopping Centre, Belfast in March. At 120,000 sq ft (11,000 m2) it was the largest store that House of Fraser had opened (as opposed to taken over) in the UK. Also in March 2008, the Company opened a 95,000 sq ft (8,800 m2) store in High Wycombe. On 25 September 2008 the Company opened a 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) store in the Cabot Circus development in Bristol, and a branch in Westfield London, a new 70,000 sq ft (6,500 m2) store, on 30 October 2008.
House of Fraser launched the HouseofFraser.com "Buy & Collect" concept shop in October 2011 with its first location in Aberdeen. A further site, in Liverpool, opened in 2012. These small shops were equipped with computer terminals to allow customers to order from the House of Fraser website. Both shops had closed by the summer of 2016.
In December 2013, talks to takeover House of Fraser were held by French department store Galeries Lafayette with House of Fraser also exploring a floating on the London Stock Exchange once more in the summer of 2014 if the takeover was to be abandoned.
In April 2014, it was reported by the BBC that House of Fraser would be sold to Chinese conglomerate Sanpower Group, who would obtain 89% share in the company which would value the business at about £450 million. Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store Co will buy an 89% stake in Highland Group Holdings Ltd, which owns House of Fraser. The purchase is worth £450 million. Sanpower Group is a 22 percent shareholder of the Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store Co. On 2 September 2014 Don McCarthy, retiring Executive Chairman of House of Fraser, announced the completion of the sale of 100% of the preferred ordinary shares and B ordinary shares, and approximately 89% of the A ordinary shares and preference shares of Highland Group Holdings Ltd, to Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store Co, a leading chain of Chinese department stores and part of the Sanpower Group, for an enterprise value of approximately £480 million.
In 2017, a new department store opened at the Rushden Lakes development in Rushden, Northamptonshire. The closure of House of Fraser Outlet in Leicester also took place during the year and a further closure, in Aylesbury, was announced for 2018, however, this never materialised following the acquisition by Sports Direct International. A new store in Chester was announced in February 2017 with construction due to start in mid-2018. It was announced later in 2018 that House of Fraser had pulled out of these plans due to their financial issues.
On 2 May 2018, the company announced that it was to be entering into a conditional sale of a controlling stake in the firm to Nanjing Cenbest (another Sanpower Group subsidiary) to Hamleys owner C.banner, another Chinese firm. A condition of the sale is that the company streamline its existing store portfolio and cost base. The intention to launch a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) was announced on the same day. However, C.banner later pulled out.
On 7 June 2018 the company announced that it would close 31 of its 58 UK stores:
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 William Street • Middlesbrough • Milton Keynes • Plymouth • Shrewsbury • Skipton • Swindon • Telford • Wolverhampton • Worcester
This includes the flagship Oxford Street branch and the large Birmingham store in January 2019. Richard Lim of Retail Economics said that it remained "hard to know with any certainty just what will happen next at House of Fraser" but that without any external funding within a matter of weeks it would inevitably fall into administration. Before the closures the company employed 6,000 people directly, and another 11,500 concession staff.
Minority shareholder Sports Direct International announced on 6 May 2018 that it was to launch legal action against the company and its leadership team. Sports Direct's representative stating that "We have been frozen out by House of Fraser. Their dealings in China are opaque, and it is blatant that we have been unfairly prejudiced. We have no option other than litigation to protect the interests of Sports Direct and its shareholders."
On 10 August 2018, House of Fraser entered administration. Later that day Sports Direct International agreed to buy the assets of the business – the House of Fraser stores, brand and the stock – for £90 million in cash. Soon after the Sports Direct acquisition, many shock store closures were announced including the previously safe Manchester store, as well as Nottingham, Lakeside, Gateshead and Norwich, among others. However, after months of negotiations, almost all stores were saved, with the exception of Shrewsbury, Cirencester, Edinburgh Frasers, Chichester and London King William Street, all of which closed during December 2018 and January 2019.
On 19 April 2019, it was revealed that a sixth store, in Altrincham, would shut due to the landlords, M&M, served Ashley notice to quit, with the intention of turning it into residential area. It is however, unknown when it will close. On 14 June 2019, it was confirmed that the store in Hull, which nearly closed in December, would close in Summer 2019 as a result of failing to agree on redevelopments to the site. Due to many stores being saved on one year leases often on no or little rent, it is unknown whether they’ll be more like Altrincham. There is also rumours that Philip Day, bidder for House of Fraser, will open some stores up as Days.
These stores will remain open for the foreseeable future:
House of Fraser previously traded under many different, long established brand names. A number of regional groups of stores were acquired and subsequently extended or amalgamated. The Arnotts and Frasers groups were created by House of Fraser from scratch. These key groups, together with the flagship store of each one, and the regions to which they are largely associated are:
Over the years, the following department stores have closed and no longer trade as part of the company.
The following department stores were demerged or sold as going concerns: