// Mike Ashley’s new Frasers department store concept set to replace the Debenhams in Wolverhampton’s Mander Centre
// It is expected to be the first of the new Frasers stores, an upmarket version of House of Fraser
// Debenhams’ 94,000 sq ft Wolverhampton store is closing in January 2020 as part of its CVA
Sports Direct is set to unveil its new Frasers department store concept in a 94,000sq ft flagship in Wolverhampton’s Mander Centre.
Benson Elliot, the private equity real estate firm that manages the shopping centre, said the deal pertains to the current space that is occupied by Debenhams.
Frasers will move in to begin the new look refit as soon as Debenhams closes down and vacates the space in January 2020, as part of its major CVA plan.
Frasers is the upmarket offshoot of House of Fraser, which the Mike Ashley-owned Sports Direct acquired just over a year ago in a £90 million pre-pack administration deal.
Speculation has been rife for several months that Sports Direct was preparing for up to seven House of Fraser stores to be rebranded as Frasers, as part of Ashley’s ambitions to turn the department store chain into “the Harrods of the high street”.
Currently, the House of Fraser flagship in Glasgow operates under the Frasers name, so the new Wolverhampton store signals the start of a rollout for the upmarket fascia.
Sports Direct head of elevation Michael Murray confirmed the signing.
“We are really proud to have secured this retail destination in the heart of Wolverhampton and look forward to bringing our new elevated multi-brand concept to the Mander Centre in 2020,” he said.
Benson Elliot retail specialist Jonathan Ratnage said the new Frasers offering will support and sustain jobs and investment in an area that is bucking the national trend of economic downtown on the high streets.
“We are delighted to welcome Frasers to the Mander Centre,” he said.
“This is terrific news for our loyal shoppers who will see a significant upgrade in our premium brand line up.
“This long-term commitment signifies the confidence major brands have in both Wolverhampton and the Mander Centre as the city’s pre-eminent customer destination.”
He added: “The high street is definitely going through a transition, but Wolverhampton is emerging stronger, with the Mander Centre playing a pivotal role at the heart of the £1 billion transformation of the city centre.”
Previous reports have suggested that Sports Direct is eyeing somewhere between 15 to 31 House of Fraser stores that could receive millions of pounds of investment over the next five years in order to relaunch the department store chain and take it upmarket.
The Belfast and Liverpool House of Fraser stores are some of the locations reportedly included in the rebranding preparations.
In Sports Direct’s last full-year report, its “premium lifestyle” division – mostly luxury Flannels fascia – saw sales surge by 43 per cent cent to £162 million.
However, just weeks after the same full year report saw Sports Direct label House of Fraser’s problems as “nothing short of terminal in nature”, creditors extended its administration for a full year.
As a result, further House of Fraser store closures are expected this year.