House of Fraser

House of Fraser Ltd.
Private (Subsidiary)
Industry Retail
Founded Glasgow, Scotland, UK (1849)
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people
Frank Slevin, Chairman
Nigel Oddy, CEO
Colin Elliot, CFO
Andy Harding, CCO
Peter Gross, COO
Products Clothing, cosmetics, housewares
Revenue £1,152 million (2013)
Number of employees
5,000 plus 13,000 concession staff.
Parent Sanpower (89%) and Mike Ashley (11%)

House of Fraser is a British department store group with over 60 stores across the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was established in Glasgow, Scotland in 1849 as Arthur and Fraser. By 1891, it was known as Fraser & Sons. The company grew steadily during the early 20th century, but after the Second World War, a large number of acquisitions would transform the company into a national chain. Between 1936 and 1985 over seventy companies, not including their subsidiaries, were acquired.[1] In 1948, the company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange, and eventually was included in the FTSE Index before the company was acquired by a consortium of investors including Baugur and Don McCarthy in 2006. On 2 September 2014, Don McCarthy, retiring Executive Chairman of House of Fraser, announced the completion of the sale of 100% of the preferred ordinary shares and B ordinary shares and approximately 89% of the A ordinary shares and preference shares of Highland Group Holdings Ltd, to Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store Co, a leading chain of Chinese department stores, for an enterprise value of approximately £480 million.[2]

The company's acquisitions have included numerous household names, some of which are no longer used as part of the company's long-term strategy of re-branding its stores under the House of Fraser name. Over the years House of Fraser has purchased a number of famous stores, such as the Army & Navy Stores, Barkers of Kensington, Beatties, Dickins & Jones, Jenners, Howells, Kendals, Rackhams, Binns and Harrods of Knightsbridge (which is now owned privately). D H Evans Oxford Street store in London was rebranded as House of Fraser in 2001 and became the chain's flagship store. House of Fraser's largest store is located in Birmingham.

The group has been subject to many attempted takeovers by other companies, such as Boots and Lonrho, but it was the acquisition by Baugur Group in 2006 that brought the ownership of House of Fraser to the public's attention, and the resulting changes in its ownership, including shareholding by Lloyds Banking Group.[3]


House of Fraser on Briggate in Leeds.
House of Fraser in Belfast.

The early years

The Company was founded by Hugh Fraser and James Arthur in 1849 as a small drapery shop on the corner of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street in Glasgow, Scotland trading as Arthur and Fraser.[1]

Hugh Fraser had been apprenticed to Stewart & McDonald Ltd, a Glasgow drapery warehouse where he rose to the position of warehouse manager and from where he brought many of initial customers.[1]

James Arthur also owned a retail drapery business in Paisley, near Glasgow: he appointed a manager to oversee the Paisley business while he focused on his new business.[1]

The Company established a wholesale trade in adjoining premises in Argyle Street. In 1856 the wholesale business moved to a larger site in Miller Street, Glasgow and started to trade under the name Arthur & Co. The retail side of the business expanded into the vacant buildings left by the wholesale side.[1]

During the late 1850s and early 1860s the retail business was run by a professional manager – first Thomas Kirkpatrick and then Alexander McLaren.[1] In 1865 the partnership between the partners was dissolved and Fraser assumed control of the retail business leaving Arthur with the wholesale business. In 1865 Alexander McLaren joined the retail business and the name was changed to Fraser & McLaren.[1]

Fraser & Sons

When the first Hugh Fraser died in 1873, his three eldest sons, James, John and Hugh, acquired stakes in the business. James and John Fraser were initially directors in the business and employed Alexander McLaren and later John Towers to manage it for them. In 1891 Hugh also joined the partnership which by then was called Fraser & Sons.[1]

In 1879, the current flagship store on Oxford Street in London was opened by Dan Harries Evans, a 23-year-old from Whitemill in Carmarthenshire, Wales who had previously been apprenticed to a draper in Forest hamlet near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. He moved to London in 1878 to set up his own business in Westminster Bridge Road. The store traded under the D H Evans name until 2001.[1]

By 1900, Hugh Fraser II was in charge: he incorporated the business as Fraser & Sons Ltd in 1909 and introduced the famous stag’s head.[1]

After Hugh Fraser II died in 1927, his son Hugh Fraser III, an accountant, became Chairman of the business.[1] He opened new departments, enlarged the tearoom, opened a restaurant and also began to look at possible acquisitions.[1] In 1936 he purchased Arnott & Co Ltd and its neighbour Robert Simpson & Sons Ltd in nearby Argyle Street, merging the companies to help improve trade.[1] In 1948 the Company, now named House of Fraser, was first listed on the London Stock Exchange.[1]

1950s to 1970s

The Art Deco Kendals building on Deansgate, Manchester – a House of Fraser store since 1959.

In 1951, the Company purchased McDonalds Ltd, and with it a branch in Harrogate. Fraser then purchased the Scottish Drapery Corporation in 1952, followed by the Sunderland based Binns group of stores in 1953.[1]

Fraser sold the property sites to insurance companies, leasing them back for long terms at advantageous rates. This enabled the release of capital for the purchase of new premises and the modernisation of existing stores. In 1957 the Kensington store group of John Barker & Co Ltd was acquired and in 1959 Harrods[1] and Dickins & Jones[4] also joined the Group.

Sir Hugh Fraser succeeded his father as Chairman of the company when his father died in 1966.[1] Sir Hugh resumed the expansion of the company in 1969 with the takeover of J. J. Allen Ltd, a Bournemouth based group.[1]

During the 1970s, the House of Fraser Group acquired more companies including: T. Baird & Sons Ltd of Scotland, Switzer & Co. Ltd, Dublin, Ireland and E. Dingle & Co. Ltd, Chiesmans Ltd, Hide & Co and the Army & Navy Stores in southern England, as well as a number of independent stores, totalling over fifty stores during the decade.[1] In 1973 the House of Fraser Group was considering merging with the British pharmacy company Boots, and was even subject to a written answer in the House of Commons.[5] The government decided to ban the proposed merger in 1974.[6]

1980s and 1990s

Former House of Fraser logo

In 1981, Prof. Roland Smith succeeded Sir Hugh Fraser as chairman. A takeover bid by Lonrho was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and declared to be contrary to the public interest.[1] Four new stores opened between 1980 and 1984.[1] which included D H Evans in Wood Green, North London, in 1980, Dickins & Jones in Milton Keynes, in 1981, Frasers in Perth in April 1984 and Dickins & Jones in Epsom, Surrey, in May 1984.

The company, by then House of Fraser plc, diversified into sports goods under the name of Astral Sports and Leisure (subsequently sold to Sears plc owned Olympus Sport division) and into funerals with Wylie & Lochhead. It also launched the YOU range of cosmetics and jewellery shops and in 1985 acquired Turnbull & Asser Holdings Ltd, shirt makers of Jermyn Street, London and Kurt Geiger Holdings Ltd, shoe retailers.[1] Other developments during the 1980s included the introduction of "Lifestyle" merchandise ranges and a huge investment in store refurbishment nationwide. In 1983 the Company introduced the Frasercard, valid at all stores and administered from a central computing facility in Swindon.[1]

In 1985, the Al Fayed family bought the business for £615 million. The Al Fayeds supported the continuing expansion of the Company and replaced the stag's head logo with a stag leaping from a green triangle with shop signs of this period using a double layered san serif typeface.[1][7] In 1988, a five-year strategic business plan was announced which saw a rationalisation of stores. Small branches were to be relinquished and replaced with larger units.

In September 1990, two new department stores were opened, a House of Fraser in the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield, and Schofields in Leeds. In 1991, a new House of Fraser store was opened at the Lakeside Shopping Centre in West Thurrock, Essex.

In 1994, before House of Fraser plc was relisted on the London Stock Exchange, Harrods was moved out of the Group so that it could remain under the private ownership of the Al Fayed family.[1] John Coleman, who was appointed chief executive of the House of Fraser Group in 1996, launched the Linea brand in 1997 and Platinum and Fraser the following year.[1] The House of Fraser logo was revised in 1996 with the leaping stag now going over an "F" shadow and shop signs using a serif typeface.[7] There were many store closures in this period which included the closure or selling off of branches in locations including Sheffield (House of Fraser), Newcastle (Binns), Sunderland (Binns), Bradford (Rackhams) and Leeds (Schofields which had closed only six years after opening although House of Fraser continued to have a presence with their Rackhams (now House of Fraser store) in the city) with the loss of around 1,000 jobs.[8]

House of Fraser set up BL Fraser, a 50–50 joint venture with the British Land Company, in 1999 to buy 15 House of Fraser stores that would continue to be operated by House of Fraser. The Company added to its private-label brands in 2000 with House of Fraser womenswear, The Collection menswear, and a Linea Home line.[1]

2000s to present

In 2003, Tom Hunter put forward a hostile bid for the Group, with the possible intention to merge with Allders, another department store he had shareholdings in.[9] In addition there was a large reduction in the number of House of Fraser stores in Scotland which included the sell off or closure of branches in Aberdeen (Frasers), Dundee (Arnotts), Inverness (Frasers), Paisley (Arnotts) and Perth (Frasers).

2005 was a significant year of growth for House of Fraser with the acquisition of the four Jenners department stores in April for £46m,[10] and Beatties, a mainly Midlands based department store chain of 12 sites, for £69.3m in the summer of 2005.[11] In addition to buying companies, House of Fraser continued its own development programme and opened several more stores including its first store outside the UK in Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin, Ireland.[12] as well as stores in Maidstone and Norwich.

In 2006, the Company consolidated its portfolio by closing the 135-year-old Barkers business in Kensington High Street on 2 January 2006.[13] and on 14 January 2006, closed its Dickins & Jones store in London's Regent Street following a large increase in the rent,.[14] In addition, the Company closed its Birmingham Beatties store in January 2006 (although retained the House of Fraser store in Birmingham)[15]

In February 2006, the Group announced that it had received a preliminary bid approach valuing it at £300 million, and in August 2006 House of Fraser confirmed a takeover approach from the Highland consortium who acquired the Company for £351.4 million in November 2006.[16] As part of the Highland takeover all brand names for their stores, including most of the Beatties branches, will be replaced with the House of Fraser name (with the exception of Jenners) with the stag logo axed and a new san serif typeface used on shop signs.[17]

In September 2007, House of Fraser launched its online store.[18]

The Company had four major openings in 2008, including its first store in Northern Ireland in the newly built Victoria Square Centre, Belfast in March. At 120,000 sq ft (11,000 m2) it was the largest store that House of Fraser had opened (as opposed to taken over) in the UK.[19] Also in March 2008, the Company opened a 95,000 sq ft (8,800 m2) store in High Wycombe. On 25 September 2008 the Company opened a 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) store in the Cabot Circus development in Bristol,[20] and a branch in Westfield London, a new 70,000 sq ft (6,500 m2) store, on 30 October 2008.[21]

In December 2013, talks to takeover House of Fraser were held by French department store Galeries Lafayette with House of Fraser also exploring a floating on the London Stock Exchange in Summer 2014 if the takeover is to be abandoned.[22]

In April 2014, it was reported by the BBC that House of Fraser would be sold to Chinese conglomerate Sanpower, who would obtain 89% share in the company which would value the business at about £450 million.[23]

Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store Company will buy an 89 percent stake in Highland Group Holdings Ltd, which owns U.K. department store chain House of Fraser.[24] The purchase is worth £450 million.[24] Sanpower Group is a 22 percent shareholder of the Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store Company.[24]

Corporate governance and social responsibility

House of Fraser is a principal subsidiary of Highland Group Holdings Limited, 35% owned by Landsbanki.[25]


House of Fraser is the third largest group of traditional department stores in the UK with 60 stores, sited in a mixture of town and city centre and regional shopping centre locations. House of Fraser Outlet stores in Doncaster, Swindon and Leicester sell reduced price and clearance items in a discount department store environment.

House of Fraser also has one of the fastest growing websites in the UK and in 2012, the web sales represented 11% of the Group's sales.

House of Fraser launched its House of 'buy & collect' concept shop in October 2011 with its first location in Aberdeen.[26] These much smaller shop units have PC terminals allowing customers to order from the House of Fraser website.

IT Partner

House of Fraser signed a Multi year contract with Infosys, Bangalore, India based Software giant as strategic partner to develop its business channel and IT infrastructure and to expand its Global footprint. This deal is signed in the presence of Mr. Yuan Yafei, Chairman, Sanpower Group and Dr. Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer, Infosys.[27]

Department stores

All stores now trade under the 'House of Fraser' name, except where stated otherwise.


Northern Ireland




House of Fraser Outlet stores

House of stores

Defunct brands

House of Fraser previously traded under many different long established brand names. A number of regional groups of stores were acquired and subsequently extended or amalgamated. The Arnotts and Frasers groups were created by House of Fraser from scratch. These key groups together with the flagship store of each one and the regions to which they are largely associated are listed below:

Former branches

The following department stores have closed:

The following department stores were demerged or sold as going concerns:


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 "House of Fraser archive project" (PDF). Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  2. "news". House of Fraser. Retrieved 2016-09-04.
  3. Quinn, James (10 October 2010). "House of Fraser asks Lloyds to raise stake". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  4. "Friday, 17 June, 2005". BBC News. 17 June 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  5. "Hansard 1973 vol 864 cc113-5W". 13 November 1973. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  6. The Glasgow Herald 18 May 1974
  7. 1 2 "File:House of Fraser at Meadowhall – – 948433.jpg – Wikimedia Commons". Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  8. Nigel Cope (28 January 1997). "House of Fraser warns more jobs are in danger – Business – News". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  9. "Hostile bid for Fraser closer". London Evening Standard. London. 9 January 2003.
  10. Simon Bowers (5 July 2005). "''The Guardian'' Second approach for Beatties, Tuesday 5 July 2005". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  11. "''London Evening Standard'' House of Fraser buys Beatties, 29 June 2005". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  12. "Historic Dickens & Jones to close". BBC News. 17 June 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  13. Morley, Chris (6 January 2006). "Fears for future of Beatties store". Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  14. "House of Fraser agrees Highland bid". BBC News. 25 August 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  15. Kaya Burgess. "Baugur plans to sharpen HoF image (Times Online)". The Times. UK. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  16. Butler, Sarah (8 March 2008). "House of Fraser opens biggest ever store in Belfast". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  17. "House of Fraser to anchor Bristol Broadmead scheme". 17 February 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  18. Kaya Burgess. "Organic grocer replaces Barkers (Times Online)". The Times. UK. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  19. Simon Neville (2013-12-19). "House of Fraser keeps options open as Lafayette bid looms". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-09-04.
  20. "Chinese firm set to buy House of Fraser". BBC. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  21. 1 2 3 Liza Lin, Gabi Thesing, Stephen Tan; Editors: Stephanie Wong, Robert Valpuesta (8 April 2014). "China's Nanjing Xinjiekou to Buy Stake in House of Fraser Owner". Business of Fashion reprinting Bloomberg. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  22. "Landsbanki: Jenners not for sale". The Scotsman. UK. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  23. Harrison, Nicola (21 October 2011). "Retail Week 21 October 2011". Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  24. "House of Fraser selects Infosys to deliver strategic Retail Transformation Program". 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2016-09-04.
  25. "Revealed: Our New Aberdeen Store". House of Fraser. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  26. "Liverpool ONE to host first House of Fraser concept store in the North West > Business News > Business". Click Liverpool. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2012.

External links

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