House of Fraser chief reveals ambitions for department store group
House of Fraser chief executive John King has outlined his plans to make the department store chain the Nordstrom of the UK, with a revitalised premium concept.

In his first full interview since he took the helm in December, King told Retail Week that he thought Nordstrom, the upmarket US department store business, was a 'quality outfit' and would be a good model to replicate here.

'If I was to look at the US, Nordstrom would be a good choice,' said King. 'We want to move towards premium, but still offer great value through private label.'

King said he was in the process of introducing a raft of new brands to House of Fraser's 60 stores and that he had restructured the buying department to ensure there was a consistent focus on premium brands in future.

'One of the things we want is best practice everywhere,' King said.

According to one source close to the retailer, under the previous management fragmented buying teams had bought for different customer profiles, which led to a schizophrenic product offer.

King is in talks with high-profile designer labels about supplying several stores within the group to help him recreate the Nordstrom model.

King added that the interior of House of Fraser's three high-profile London stores - in Oxford Street, Victoria and the City - would be revamped over the next three months to reinforce the upmarket message.

Last week, House of Fraser unveiled a womenswear own label called Untold, its first product initiative under King.

King said he intended to expand the range into other product categories, including footwear, lingerie and accessories, by the end of this year and into 2008. Untold competes with Whistles and Karen Millen, but its price point is about 15 per cent to 20 per cent below Whistles. However, it sits above Linea, House of Fraser's existing own label.

'Untold is in 25 stores at the moment. I would like to expand it into all stores. There is great potential for it,' said King. However, he stressed he was still committed to developing the Linea brand.

House of Fraser axed 200 back-office jobs last week.


The Nordstrom chain has built its reputation on impeccable customer relations. Its service is so famous that a book has been dedicated to it - The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence - and urban legends have grown around it

Staff are encouraged to set high professional and personal goals and the famous Nordstrom Employee Handbook contains only 75 words, including outlining its number-one goal as 'to provide outstanding customer service'

Brands stocked range from designer labels to premium collections including; Armani, Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Oscar de la Renta, Nine West, Miss Sixty, Kangol, Adidas and Lacoste