Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has told landlords it will not pay rents until it is “fully able to freely trade as a business” again. 

The group, which owns a host of high street chains including Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Flannels, Game and Jack Wills, was forced to close all of its stores during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Although non-essential stores across the country are now open for business, social distancing has impacted the number of customers allowed into shops at any given time.

Frasers said it does intend to pay rents until trade “reaches a level” that it, and its landlords, had expected when agreeing rental terms. 

In a letter to landlords seen by property trade publication Estates Gazette, Frasers said: “We write to confirm that we shall not be making any rental payment in respect of the property that we occupy until we are fully able to freely trade as a business at this location and the level of trade reaches a level which the parties would have envisaged when they drew up the lease.”  

Frasers condemned landlords for not making the “obvious provision” of suspending rental obligations when retailers were unable to trade during lockdown.

It added: “A tenancy of a property which could not be used for trading was not the deal we made as tenant. The whole purpose was for us to be able to trade.”

Frasers has also asked landlords to switch to monthly, rather than quarterly, rent payments to help the group better manage its cashflow.

The latest demands come four months after Frasers requested 50% waivers on its rents as it battles to reduce costs amid the pandemic. 

Retail Week has approached Frasers for comment.