House of Fraser on Oxford Street closes after 142 years – ‘A sad time for London’

House of Fraser: Mike Ashley says closures will be 'slow process'

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Another retail giant is closing its doors on the iconic London shopping street that is Oxford Street. House of Fraser has announced it will shut down its flagship store in January and plans for the Art Deco building – which are estimated to cost £100million – have been revealed. 

Instead of a one-stop department store, the building that housed House of Fraser for decades is going to be turned into an office block including shops, a gym and a rooftop restaurant. 

Westminster City Council has agreed to the redevelopment plans and the landlord for the building has given notice to quit. 

The owner Fraser Group has blamed “archaic business rates” and warns further closures are “inevitable” without reform.

The flagship store which sits at number 318 Oxford Street has been a feature of London’s most famous retail avenue for decades.

It was purpose-built as a department store and initially traded under the name of DH Evans until it was rebranded as House of Fraser in 2001.

Fraser Group, formerly known as Sports Direct International plc, took ownership of the store in 2018 but its tenure has come to an end.

In a bid to overhaul the building, £100m will be spent. 

West End ward councillor Tim Barnes, who spoke in support of the plans at the meeting, welcomed the proposal.

“Oxford Street has suffered particularly badly during the pandemic, but Covid-19 just accelerated changes to retail habits that were already taking place,” he told the BBC. 

“By investing in this flagship building and creating a vibrant mix of uses, the vibrancy of Oxford Street can be assured for residents, visitors and workers.”

Andrew Davidson, a partner at architects PDP London, said the landmark store would now undergo a “once-in-a-hundred-year” transformation.

He said the building, which dates back to 1937, would become “a vibrant and flexible mixed-use destination, where Londoners will enjoy working, keeping fit, shopping and relaxing”.

The new owner of the building, Publica Properties Establishment, will demolish the current top two floors and build three new floors, making the building eight storeys high.

A rooftop restaurant will be created with 360 degree views across London and access to external terraces.

Offices and shops will fill the remaining storeys, with lower floors being converted into a gym and a basement swimming pool.

A spokesman for Fraser Group warned the other House of Fraser stores across the country are now at risk of a similar thing happening. 

He said: “As a business which 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.”

A spokesman for the Treasury said the budget last month froze the business rates multiplier and provided almost £1.7billion in further business rates relief for 2022-23.

He said: “We’ve just concluded a review of business rates.

“We think a tax on the use and value of commercial property remains an important part of a balanced business tax system and we’re making changes to make their operation fairer and more effective for businesses.”

Following the news, shoppers took to social media to discuss. 

Ashley Armstrong tweeted: “Just caught up with the news that House of Fraser on Oxford Street is shutting after Frasers Group was served notice by landlord. So that means another huge empty space on top of Debenhams closure. London’s supposedly premier shopping street just got a lot more depressing.” 

Melanie Blake added: “Sad news, shopped in that branch for decades & the staff are so lovely but not a surprise. I went in there & several other really well known huge stores during peak hours yesterday & they were all empty. So many lost jobs – a sad time for #CentralLondon.” 

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