When the long-serving butler was told his services were no longer required at House of Fraser’s Howick Place headquarters, it was clear things would never be the same again.

The winds of change have blown ferociously through head office since John King and Don McCarthy took charge following Baugur’s takeover of the venerable department store chain. But the new strategy unveiled this week (page 3) shows that the changes have only just begun.

A look at the diagram opposite might cause the odd wry smile among some rivals. The aim is clear – a relentless drive upmarket and differentiation from its rivals, even if its positioning just below Selfridges might be a tad ambitious.

There is an opportunity here. Debenhams has been drifting downmarket in its relentless chase for sales, while John Lewis, despite having improved its fashion offer immeasurably, still has some way to go before it becomes seen as a destination for more fashionable brands.

The big obstacle to turning House of Fraser round will be the stores, some of which are awful. Beatties may be Wolverhampton’s best known retail landmark, but it is also a sprawling mausoleum with more staff than customers.

Breathing new life into the lesser lights of the portfolio will be a challenge. Should a retailer that sees itself on the tails of Selfridges really be in Skipton, Grimsby or Carlisle?

What King and McCarthy have done is identify a gap for a house of brands that offers an aspirational experience to upper-middle market customers. It’s a bold vision, but if they can translate it to the stores, they might just pull it off.

New era for retail-week.com

The internet isn’t just changing retail, it’s changing publishing too. In the three years since we launched retail-week.com, the number of people visiting the site has rocketed.

Today we unveil the new retail-week.com. We’ve put a lot of work into understanding what you’re looking for online and will continue to build and develop the site to create the only resource you need for retail news and jobs, with the editorial quality you expect from Retail Week.

Take a look at the user guide (page 16) and give it a try.

Tim.danaher@retail-week.com