LONDON • Sports Direct International plc said it will continue to operate most of House of Fraser Ltd’s 59 UK and Ireland department stores after rescuing the chain from near collapse.
“Our aim is to keep at least 80% of the stores open,” Liam Rowley, Sports Direct’s head of strategic investments, said yesterday in an interview on Bloomberg Television with Anna Edwards and Manus Cranny. “We feel that we can bring a lot more to the table with our ambit ion than, maybe, was previously done.”
Sports Direct acquired House of Fraser last week for £90 million (RM470.35 million) after would-be Chinese buyer C.banner International Holdings Ltd pulled out, prompting the UK company to begin insolvency procedures.
After buying House of Fraser, Sports Direct CEO Mike Ashley said he wanted to turn the chain into the “Harrods of the high street”, referring to the upmarket London retailer. The sporting- goods seller also holds a stake in Debenhams plc, another beleaguered British department-store chain.
“Us taking on House of Fraser does not mean we are going to let Debenhams disappear,” Rowley said. “We are very much holding their feet to the fire.”
He declined to comment on speculation that Sports Direct might attempt to combine the two retailers, which lifted Debenhams for a second day.
The shares rose as much as 3.8% early yesterday in London, extending a 9.5% rally on Monday.
“Could there be an acquisition of Debenhams?” Liberum analyst Adam Tomlinson said.
“I think that is the question that everyone is asking.”
Rowley said Sports Direct is eager to tap buoyant demand for luxury goods, and that investment will focus on elevating the store experience at House of Fraser. It will play down private-label goods in favour of better-known brands, he added.
“The luxury market is on fire at the moment,” Rowley said. “We need to bring in brands that people want. If you get the right gear in the store, people will come to the store.”
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