House of Fraser Chichester landlord: 'We did the best we could'

The landlord for Chichester’s House of Fraser site has said they did ‘everything they could’ to keep the store open.

House of Fraser on West Street. Picture by Derek Martin
House of Fraser on West Street. Picture by Derek Martin

Earlier this year, the store in West Street was named as one of 31 stores across the UK that would close, putting more than 160 jobs at risk in the city.

House of Fraser was then bought out by retail giant Sports Direct.

Harry Foster, from Savills Investment Management, which manages the site, said he had been negotiating with Sports Direct about the site and had offered a shorter lease and discounts to rent.

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He said: “Even though we were told it was profitable they wanted to close it, but we wanted to keep it open and for everyone to keep their jobs – clearly Sports Direct didn’t want that.

“It’s busy buying a lot of big businesses.”

Sports Direct acquired House of Fraser in August and then Evans Cycles in September.

Mr Foster added: “We did the best we could to keep it open.

“We are now talking to other department stores to see if there is any interest and we will see where we get to. If not, then we are looking at what other options there are.”

Mr Foster added that other options for the site were cinemas, retail, residential and mixed use. The news comes at a time where business leaders have been coming together to look at the future of the city to ensure it remains vibrant.

Speaking at the launch event of Let’s Talk About Our Towns – a major initiative to revive the towns and high streets in West Sussex – leader of West Sussex County Council Louise Goldsmith said we had a ‘wonderful’ city in Chichester but added:

“Things are changing for towns and we need to make sure that we are at the fore to help to ensure that we have vibrant towns that people want to visit and enjoy the day.”

After the initial announcement of the closure in August, Mr Foster promised that the the store would not become a boarded up ‘eyesore’ and said they would do ‘anything that willbe positive for jobs and for Chichester’ in decisions about replacing the store.

He said the site could be split into different retail units, as a department store, with House of Fraser brands that want to keep a presence in the city. Mr Foster also said a restaurant was a possibility given the prime location opposite the cathedral and the top floors could become residential accommodation.