House of Fraser Wolverhampton to close as nearby Debenhams also axed
The Wolverhampton branch of House of Fraser is set to close down with the move marking the end of a historic period for the building as the Midlands-based Beatties chain, which House of Fraser acquired 14 years ago, was actually founded on the city-centre site in 1877.
The lease expired last month and it looks like it could be the end of multi-storey retail at that location, with a £3 million sale of the property set to go through within a few weeks.
The University of Wolverhampton is believed to be the preferred bidder. If that's the case, it means the upper floors of the building could become lecture halls or student housing, The Guardian reported. Any retail activity is likely to be confined to the ground floor.
The news comes as rival department store chain Debenhams is set to close its Wolverhampton location as part of its ongoing recovery plan, despite it only having opened in 2017.
The House of Fraser store is one of a number that could see changed use on the horizon as the one-year low-rent or no-rent deals Sports Direct struck when it bought HoF out of administration last year come to an end.
Analysts expects a raft of HoF closures once the key Christmas trading season is over, despite Sports Direct’s earlier stated intention to keep as many of the stores as possible open.
Given the large size of many of the spaces and the fact that numerous former BHS stores are still lying empty over three years after that chain’s failure, it’s likely that more HoF sites will be converted to alternative — that is, non-retail — use.
That said, it’s not all bad news as The Guardian also said that the Debenhams exit could have a plus side with HoF negotiating to take over that space. Located in the Mander Centre mall, it’s a more modern space than the 1920s ex-Beatties building in which the HoF store currently sits.
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