‘So much for Harrods of the high street!’ Shoppers complain House of Fraser ‘looks like a branch of Sports Direct’ following £90m takeover by ‘tracksuit tycoon’ Mike Ashley

  • House of Fraser was purchased by Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley for £90m
  • Shoppers have complained about changing stock following the acquisition 
  • Disgruntled customers have taken to Twitter to lament the store’s revamp

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley promised to turn House of Fraser into ‘the Harrods of the high street’ when he bought the chain for £90m in August.

But shoppers are doubtful over the troubled store’s transformation at the hands of the ‘tracksuit tycoon’ with luxury brands making way for sportswear, and stores filled with empty railings and discount goods.

Hoards of disgruntled customers have taken to Twitter to lament the department store’s revamp, with one claiming their local branch ‘looks like a branch of Sports Direct’.

It comes just weeks after sources hinted that Mr Ashley has plans to turn some House of Fraser stores into Sports Direct outlets and rebrand others under the Flannels fascia. 

House of Fraser customers have taken to Twitter to lament the 'swift changes' at the department store, with some claiming it 'looks like a branch of Sports Direct'

House of Fraser customers have taken to Twitter to lament the ‘swift changes’ at the department store, with some claiming it ‘looks like a branch of Sports Direct’

The British store was bought out of administration by Sports Direct this summer, just a year shy of its 170th birthday. 

The deal raised hopes for the future of thousands of staff, after Mr. Ashley vowed to keep as many House of Fraser stores open as possible. 

And commenting on the new ownership this week, one customer tweeted: ‘Mike Ashley making swift changes at House of Fraser,’ alongside a snap showing rails of Adidas tracksuits.

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Another wrote: ‘As was the case with @LillywhitesUK, so begins the sad demise and destruction of the once great @houseoffraser, as @SportsDirect merchandise begins to take over the shelves like an aggressive virus.’ 

The same shopper also tweeted a picture showing a rail of leather belts with prices slashed by up to 70 per cent. 

Twitter user Basheer Khan wrote: 'As was the case with @LillywhitesUK, so begins the sad demise and destruction of the once great @houseoffraser, as @SportsDirect merchandise begins to take over the shelves like an aggressive virus'

Twitter user Basheer Khan wrote: ‘As was the case with @LillywhitesUK, so begins the sad demise and destruction of the once great @houseoffraser, as @SportsDirect merchandise begins to take over the shelves like an aggressive virus’

The same shopper also tweeted this picture showing a rail of leather belts with prices slashed by up to 70 per cent, commenting on the 'sad demise' of House of Fraser

The same shopper also tweeted this picture showing a rail of leather belts with prices slashed by up to 70 per cent, commenting on the ‘sad demise’ of House of Fraser

Empty clothing rails in a House of Fraser branch. Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley promised to turn the store into 'the Harrods of the high street' when he bought the chain for £90m

Empty clothing rails in a House of Fraser branch. Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley promised to turn the store into ‘the Harrods of the high street’ when he bought the chain for £90m

Mail reporter Hannah Uttley lamented the visual merchandising inside House of Fraser's flagship store with items sitting unboxed on shelves

Mail reporter Hannah Uttley lamented the visual merchandising inside House of Fraser’s flagship store with items sitting unboxed on shelves

 In House of Fraser's flagship Oxford Street store, household items still in their packaging sit on shelves with discounts on vacuum cleaners of up to 40 per cent (pictured)

 In House of Fraser’s flagship Oxford Street store, household items still in their packaging sit on shelves with discounts on vacuum cleaners of up to 40 per cent (pictured)

Mail reporter Hannah Uttley observed ‘some pretty hefty markdowns’ in the flagship Oxford Street store with a luxury Ralph Lauren handbag down to £80 from £335.

She also noted a barren-looking homeware display with unboxed electrical appliances slashed by as much as 40 per cent.

One shopper wrote: ‘So Mike Ashley has vowed to turn @houseoffraser into the ‘Harrods of the high street’ and ‘the biggest and most important thing House of Fraser is missing is the luxury brands.’

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‘The picture is the Reading store which now looks like this, a branch of @SportsDirect.’

Hannah also observed 'some pretty hefty markdowns' with a luxury Ralph Lauren handbag down to £80 from £335, and one down from £185 to £36 (pictured)

Hannah also observed ‘some pretty hefty markdowns’ with a luxury Ralph Lauren handbag down to £80 from £335, and one down from £185 to £36 (pictured)

Shoppers are doubtful over the troubled store's transformation at the hands of the 'tracksuit tycoon' after he seemingly swapped luxury brands for discount sportswear (pictured)

Shoppers are doubtful over the troubled store’s transformation at the hands of the ‘tracksuit tycoon’ after he seemingly swapped luxury brands for discount sportswear (pictured)

Disgruntled shoppers noted the introducton of activewear brands including Under Armour, Reebok and Puma

Others lamented the closing-down of their nearest branch

Disgruntled shoppers noted the introducton of activewear brands including Under Armour, Reebok and Puma (left), while others lamented the closing-down of their nearest branch

On visiting the Sittingbourne branch of the department store, one Twitter user wrote: 'Remember when @houseoffraser felt a bit premium?'

On visiting the Sittingbourne branch of the department store, one Twitter user wrote: ‘Remember when @houseoffraser felt a bit premium?’

Many noted the introducton of activewear brands including Under Armour, Reebok and Puma, while others lamented the closing-down of their nearest branch. 

One wrote drily: ‘Remember when @houseoffraser felt a bit premium?’   

A spokesman for House of Fraser told MailOnline: ‘We cannot comment on uncorroborated posts on social media. 

‘However, we have had a huge amount of positive feedback from customers, not least for the fact we are saving stores and jobs.’

Who bought House of Fraser and what will happen next?

Some 17,000 staff were informed that they will be transferred over from House of Fraser to Sports Direct following Mike Ashley’s acquisition of the troubled department store this summer.

However, doubt remains over the long-term future of jobs and whether Mr Ashley will shut underperforming stores as part of a restructuring programme.

The billionaire, who also owns Newcastle United, said that Sports Direct will ‘do our best to keep as many stores open as possible’.

He added: ‘My ambition is to transform House of Fraser into the Harrods of the high street.’

Mr Ashley’s deal was struck through a pre-pack administration process, where a company is put into administration before a new buyer cherry-picks the best assets. 

The Sports Direct chief added: ‘This is a massive step forward and further enhances our strategy of elevation across the group. This will benefit both House of Fraser and Flannels in the luxury sector.

‘It is vital that we restore the right level of ongoing relationships with the luxury brands. Our deal was conservative, consistent and simple.’ 

Prior to its collapse, Mr Ashley had held an 11 per cent stake in the department store chain. 

House of Fraser was plunged into crisis last month after C.banner, the Chinese owner of Hamleys, pulled its investment in the troubled retail chain.

C.banner was planning to buy a 51 per cent stake in House of Fraser and plough £70 million into the ailing retailer, but then scrapped the move.

Prior to the latest crisis, House of Fraser had recently agreed a so-called Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with landlords to close half of stores, with 6,000 jobs in the firing line.

It is unclear what the status of the CVA is following the takeover.

Like other retailers, House of Fraser has been stung by soaring costs and falling consumer spending power.

The company saw its business rates bills rise £3.99 million to £30.24 million this year following a Government revaluation, according to research group Altus. 



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