As sportswear tycoon Mike Ashley looks to take a stake in House of Fraser, Retail Week takes a closer look at the department store.

What is House of Fraser?

It is a department store chain with 63 shops which has a premium mainstream offer, slightly more upmarket than rivals Debenhams and John Lewis. It also has a greater dependence on women’s fashion that its competitors.

What formats does it operate?

The retailer, which orginated back in the 18th century as a Scottish drapery business, has operated a number of fascias, a sign of its acquisitive past. Of late it has tried to cut back on these to concentrate on the House of Fraser brand. However, it still operates as Frasers, Jenners, Beatties, Binns and Dingles among others.

Last year it also lauched two 1,500 sq ft HouseOfFraser.com stores, which act as collection points for online orders, as it looks to capitalise on its growing web business.

It is also set to open its first international store in Abu Dhabi next year.

How is it performing?

In its year to January 28, 2012, House of Fraser’s gross sales edged up 1.5% to £1.12bn, while like-for-likes crept up 3%. However, the retailer plunged to a £18.3m pre-tax loss from a £19.9m profit the year prior. Net operating profits plummeted from £46.4m to £18.9m.

Who’s in charge?

John King is chief executive of the department store and serial dealmaker Don McCarthy, who chairs and holds a 20% stake in Goldsmiths owner Aurum, is chairman.

Who owns it?

House of Fraser has had many owners in its long history but has been in the hands of Highland Group Holdings, a consortium led by now defunct Icelandic investor Baugur, since 2006.

McCarthy was part of the consortium alongside TBH Trading, part of Tom Hunter’s West Coast Capital and Alla Saints chairman Kevin Stanford who was co-founder of Karen Millen and former owner of Whistles, both of which had been sold to Baugur in 2004.

All – apart from Baugur, which collapsed in 2009 – are still shareholders in the department store.

Baugur’s stake in House of Fraser passed to Landsbanki following its collapse and the nationalised bank now holds just shy of 50% of the department store.

McCarthy holds around 20%, Stanford has a 10% stake while TBH holds 11.1% with the remainder held by smaller stakeholders.