Harrods’ boss Michael Ward has pledged his support for House of Fraser’s new owner Mike Ashley after he stated he wanted to make it the “Harrods of the high street”.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Ward said that the public should “all give him support and enthusiasm for trying to shake things up a bit”.
After falling into administration earlier this month, the Sports Direct billionaire Ashley bought House of Fraser in a rescue deal worth £90 million, revealing his mission statement to for its revival days later.
Though his ambition to make it the “Harrods of the high street” was met with criticism in the industry, with one high-end advisor calling it “not very realistic”, Harrods’ boss is more positive about Ashley’s intentions.
“I think what Mike meant is that he wants to take House of Fraser more upmarket and become more experiential,” Ward told the Telegraph.
“Having a Harrods in every British town wouldn’t work, it would fail miserably. Harrods works because we are in one location – London, the capital city.
“Mike knows he won’t be successful putting Prada into every House of Fraser shop. But he will be successful in making the chain more fun.”
He added that he was not surprised the department store fell into administration, stating that the high street’s current woes are due to a “bland” retail environment.
Ward went on to sympathise with the department store’s lofty business rates bills, which it cited as a key reason for its demise.
“We spend a ridiculous amount of money on rates compared to online firms and the Government thinks that’s a level playing field,” he added.
“They are responsible for the current situation [on the high street]. Hammond needs to take full responsibility for these tax increases. He can’t wash his hands of it. This is on his watch”.
In November last year Harrods recorded its eighth consecutive year of soaring profits, which included smashing the £2 billion sales mark for the first time.
Its financial performance was boosted by tourists – especially from China – flocking to the store to take advantage of prices since the sterling took a battering after the Brexit vote.