After the news this morning that House of Fraser would be closing in Manchester city centre, owner Sports Direct has released a statement saying that its options to save the store were “declined” by the landlord.
Staff at the House of Fraser on Manchester’s Deansgate, still locally referred to as Kendals, were told this morning that the store would be closing in January.
A spokesman for House of Fraser said: “We have suggested various options to the landlord that would have enabled us to save the store in Manchester. Sadly, these have been declined. We are now in consultation with staff about the fact that the store faces closure in the New Year.”
Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct retail group bought the stricken department store business in August for £90m along with its full estate of 59 properties. One of the reasons for administration was cited as a £40m rent bill due before the end of the month.
At the time of the acquisition, the future of 31 locations was in doubt, but the Manchester Deansgate store was not understood to be one of them, despite the fact its £4.3m annual rent bill.
Sports Direct openly said it was going through rent renegotiations with landlords across the country and in September announced which stores were safe and which were set to close. In the case of the closures, Ashley blamed “a small number of greedy landlords” who had failed to agree to Sports Direct’s terms. Again, there was no mention of the Manchester city centre store being at risk.
The grade two-listed Kendals building was last sold in 2007 by Irish investor Sloane Capital for £75m, to a Jersey-based private investor funded by Investec.
After the news broke this morning, Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said he would be attempting to get the decision reversed.
Leese said: “The Kendals building is a Manchester institution that has been a much-loved constant since it first opened in 1832, dominating its location on Deansgate as our modern city centre developed around it. The current 1930s building is a treasure of our city’s architecture.
“Generations of Manchester people have a huge fondness for the store and the city council will do everything it can to get this decision reversed and support those working at the store who will be shocked at today’s news.”