Mike Ashley has pledged to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into House of Fraser in exchange for three-year rent holidays on the redeveloped stores.
The Sports Direct tycoon plans to open 31 rebranded “Frasers” stores over the next five years, as he bids to make the department store chain he bought out of administration in August for £90m more “upmarket”.
In exchange for investing in the stores, Ashley hopes to secure a three-year rent-free period from landlords, according to The Sunday Times.
The refurbished Frasers stores will stock high-end brands such as Gucci and Paul Smith.
Sports Direct executive Michael Murray said: “In regional markets, there is so much appetite for aspirational brands and aspirational shopping, but they’re starved of it. This isn’t just a pipe dream – we have the capital to do it.”
Ashley has so far managed to keep 50 of the 59 House of Fraser stores open since purchasing the business; he will not be looking to upgrade all of these stores, which poses the risk of some closures.
Landlords have reportedly welcomed the planned investment but are more sceptical over Ashley’s plans for rent holidays on refurbished stores. He will also request that, following those rent holidays, subsequent rents are linked to store performance.
The Sunday Times said Ashley has conceived the new Frasers department stores as direct competition for the likes of John Lewis.