When Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct snapped up House of Fraser earlier this month, the billionaire tycoon reversed the retailer’s store closure plans and pledged to save 80 per cent of the 59-store estate.
However, doubt has once again been cast over the future of the department store chain, with a spate of store closures set to be announced this week.
Ashley, who picked up the debt laden business out of administration for £90million, has been in tense talks with landlords over rents in recent weeks.
Before it was bought by Mike Ashley, 31 House of Fraser stores were earmarked for closure
On Tuesday, he said the negotiations have resulted in around seven House of Frasers being saved from closure, including Oxford Street, Telford and Plymouth.
However, he warned that ‘time is running out’ for the remainder of the 59-store estate.
Ashley blamed ‘greedy landlords’ for potentially triggering hundreds of job losses.
A House of Fraser spokesperson said: ‘Some landlords are being very collaborative in order to give us a chance at turning the business around, giving House of Fraser a lifeline and saving hundreds of jobs.
‘However, some greedy landlords would rather see the stores close than help save the jobs of hundreds of people.
‘We will continue to try and convince these landlords but ultimately time is running out. Some closures will be announced.’
According to the Press Association, landlords are reluctant to agree to the low rents Ashley is demanding.
Last week, the tycoon struck a deal to save House of Fraser’s flagship Oxford Street store, which had been earmarked for closure under the retailer’s restructuring plans.
At the time, Ashley said: ‘It is a massive step forward and further enhances our strategy of elevation across the group.
‘My ambition is to transform House of Fraser into the Harrods of the high street.
‘We will do our best to keep as many stores open as possible.’
It comes as DIY retailer Homebase faces a possible showdown with landlords over its own proposed store closures.
A group of landlords are understood to have hired a City law firm to challenge the closures and rent cuts which, if rejected, will likely force the 241-store chain into administration and put another 11,000 retail jobs at risk.
Homebase hopes to close a tranche of stores through a CVA but it may be blocked by landlords