Leamington's future 'bright' despite loss of House of Fraser - The Leamington Observer

Leamington's future 'bright' despite loss of House of Fraser

Leamington Editorial 14th Jun, 2018   0

LEAMINGTON town centre has a bright future despite the impending loss of House of Fraser.

The shock news the town’s Parade department store was among 31 of the company’s branches earmarked for closure came as a further blow to under pressure high street retailers.

But business leaders are rallying together and calling on townspeople to play their part in supporting town centre businesses during difficult economic times.

Warwick District Council leader Andrew Mobbs said: “First and foremost, we need to reflect on how the 200 employees of Leamington’s House of Fraser are feeling. The news of the closure and the uncertainty that it brings for them will be a worrying time for them. Mindful of this, we’ve already contacted the store management to offer our full support.

“Of course, it’s disappointing to lose such a long-standing institution given its role at the heart of the town’s retail businesses. Like so many other sectors, retail is facing a fast-paced rate of change which, in order to remain relevant to their customers, requires tough decisions to be made. This isn’t a situation that Leamington is facing alone – it’s sector-wide and, given current estimations, we expect there will be some reduction in retail within town centres. This is being driven by the change in what people want from their high street and accordingly, the council’s long term strategy focuses on how to ensure our high streets continue to be busy, vibrant places.

“In the shorter term, the picture for Leamington remains buoyant – the number of vacant premises remains below the national average and a significant proportion of premises are snapped up quickly.

“Working with our partners – including BID Leamington, Leamington Chamber of Trade, Warwickshire County Council and Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub – we’ll harness this buoyant environment to ensure that the space continues to play an important, and relevant, role in the town centre. It’s important to us that we see the ground floor space maintained as an active space, even if more innovative schemes are proposed for the upper floors.

Leamington BID director Stephanie Kerr was sad to hear the news.

She said: “Our thoughts are with the staff as we have come to know there is something wonderful about them and their commitment to serving the customers of the town.

“In recent months, BID has supported House of Fraser’s efforts to collaborate with independent businesses in the town to enhance the shopping experience. This type of creative partnership is something we are keen to foster.

“The BID has been recently renewed and an important part of our role is helping to support businesses and guide change so we will also look to work with the landlord and other partners to do this.

“After ten years of the BID, we also know Leamington is a wonderful, creative town with a lot happening and the people of Leamington will help us achieve this. It is more important than ever that we work together to support the businesses we know and love.”

Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western said the closure was would affect many people across the district.

He added: “The retail sector urgently needs a level playing field, not the sticking plaster of government’s Portas- style projects. Small and medium sized businesses are the cornerstone of our economy and are under immense pressure from unfair business rates and a difficult environment for high street retail.”

House of Fraser, a company which has been running for 169 years, says the closures form part of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – a form of insolvency which enables business to rearrange deals with landlords. It includes reducing rents by 25 per cent at the other stores which could remain open.

Creditors will vote on the announced plans on June 22, and if given the green light will see stores close including its flagship shop in London’s Oxford Street.

Chairman Frank Slevin said: “The retail industry is undergoing fundamental change and House of Fraser urgently needs to adapt to this fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive. Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which, without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.

“So while 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.”

The restructuring is a condition of a deal that will give control of House of Fraser to the Chinese owner of Hamleys.

Some 6,000 jobs are believed to be affected nationwide by the House of Fraser announcement.


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