House of Fraser plans to drop 30 womenswear brands, launch champagne bars, yoga studios, refocus its customer base and relaunch its website as part of its new five-year vision.
Executive chairman Frank Slevin said the department store chain was in the middle of a “transformational period” and the overhaul would help boost sales and allow House of Fraser to stay ahead of the changes the retail industry as a whole is facing.
House of Fraser’s executives, who revealed the five-year strategy at a press conference yesterday, said that while the lack of investment over the past two decades had left the retailer “on life support”, the new plans would realign it with its core customers and refurbish its brand portfolio.
“Our vision is evolving, we need to be more innovative in the way we move forward, but we are energetic in pursuing that change,” Slevin said.
The retailer plans to cull 30-40 fashion brands and instead boost labels such as Jigsaw, Barbour, North Face and All Saints as well as house labels Linea, Biba and Label Lab.
House of Fraser will also be bringing athleisure into 40 stores and introduce year-round gift departments in 20 stores which will be refreshed around key events, such as Mother’s Day later this month.
In addition, a new “test bed” concept will be launched in five stores, a small area where new brands will be on display and will be refreshed each season. Labels that do well in the “test bed” could then have the opportunity to be rolled out across other stores.
The review of House of Fraser’s fashion offering is being led by former ASOS clothing executive Maria Hollins, who joined last May in the newly-created role of executive director of product and trading.
Hollins said the number of brands they plan to cull was not significant considering House of Fraser has 677 brands in total.
“We want fewer but better house brands, cutting back to those with the most potential,” she said.
“There was also a lot of duplication. We have focused on getting a clear product, maintaining fit across the ranges, as well as ensuring that the ranges are competitive while not compromising on quality.”
House of Fraser’s website and ecommerce offering will also be relaunched to focus on fashion, beauty, lifestyle and home.
Chief customer officer David Walmsley said the overhaul of the website and brand portfolio were part of House of Fraser’s strategy to redefine itself as a “premium” department store.
He also said the retailer would now target a new core customer called “Jo”, who he defined as a mother of two who prioritises family, community and work, and earns two to three times the national average.
“We are designing our business for one customer, Jo” Walmsley said.
“She is a modern woman, who is getting back me-time, and is looking for inspiration.”
This new marketing approach will see the retailer become more family-orientated rather than aimed at the usual younger customer base that its adverts targeted in recent years.
Other items in House of Fraser’s five-year strategy include new champagne bars, restaurants, yoga studios and well-being centres aimed to encourage customers – especially women like “Jo” – to spend more time in stores.
There will also be fewer discount promotions to reduce stock levels and avoid price hikes to cope with the post-Brexit rise in costs due to the devalued sterling.
Chief financial officer Colin Elliot said Sanpower, the Chinese company that owns House of Fraser, had invested £90 million into the business since its acquisition in 2014 and plans to invest a further £45 million this year.
He said before the acquisition, only £30 million was invested into the department store chain.
The recent investment meant that in the past two years, 12 stores underwent renovations and there was also an upgrade to the IT systems.
Meanwhile, Slevin remained tight-lipped on who House of Fraser’s new chief executive would be and when it would be announced, telling journalists to “watch this space”.
The retailer lost a few senior members in the past year, including chief customer officer Andy Harding and chief executive Nigel Oddy — who will depart in April after 10 years.