MORE than 160 jobs at a city centre department store will be axed after embattled high street chain House of Fraser revealed a sweeping set of shop closures.
Up to 6,000 jobs are under threat after the retailer’s shock announcement to close 31 of its 59 stores across the UK and Ireland – including its base in Chichester, with 166 roles here set to be lost.
House of Fraser said the planned closures, which include its Oxford Street store, come as part of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – a controversial insolvency procedure in vogue among struggling retailers.
If the CVA is approved by landlords, it will affect up to 2,000 House of Fraser staff and a further 4,000 across brands and concessions.
It said the shops earmarked for closure would remain open until early 2019.
A spokeswoman for the firm said staff in Chichester had been informed but was not able to provide any details on what redundancy packages were being offered.
She added: ‘House of Fraser’s store in Chichester is among the 31 sites that has been identified for closure. All 166 staff members employed directly by the company or its concessions have been notified and will be supported throughout this process.’
Explaining the decision, Alex Williamson, chief executive of House of Fraser, said: ‘Today’s announcement is one of the most important in this company’s 169-year history.
‘We, as a management team, have a responsibility to take necessary steps to ensure House of Fraser’s survival, which is why we are making these proposals.
‘We are fully committed to supporting those personally affected by the proposals.’
House of Fraser said it has already informed staff set to be impacted by the plans, and was committed to ‘working with all those affected openly and with sensitivity over the months ahead’.
As well as the store closures, House of Fraser’s restructuring deal will also see the rents slashed for a further 10 stores that will remain open.
Landlords, who must vote through the plan, have already expressed serious concerns about the proposals and met on Tuesday to discuss how to respond to House of Fraser.
At least 75 per cent of creditor approval is needed, with the vote set to take place on June 22.
Property agency JLL has teamed up with lawyers at Begbies Traynor to unite both institutional and individual landlords, and advise on a course of action on House of Fraser’s plans.
House of Fraser stressed the group will continue to trade ‘as normal’ online and through stores ahead of the CVA vote and throughout the proposal.
Frank Slevin, chairman of the chain, said: ‘Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.
‘So whilst closing stores is a very difficult decision, especially given the length of relationship House of Fraser has with all its locations, there should be no doubt that it is absolutely necessary if we are to continue to trade and be competitive.’