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House of Fraser turning to ‘experimental’ retail

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

20 Mar 2017


As well as cutting the number of brands it sells and targeting older women, House of Fraser is looking to place the department store at the forefront of retail change by “disrupting” the industry.

In its bid to refocus the department store into a premium retailer, House of Fraser is looking to ‘experimental’ retail options such as adding champagne bars and yoga studios and taking a new approach to sales, with “fewer better offers” and shorter shaper sales that are “more disciplined” to make the business more effective.

House of Fraser’s chairman Frank Slevin stated that the retailer was in the middle of a “transformational period” and that the lack of investment over the past two decades had left the retailer “on life support” and its new plan to realign its marketing with its customers and to repair its brand portfolio would reignite the brand.

Slevin said: “Our vision is evolving, we need to be more innovative in the way we move forward, but we are energetic in pursuing that change.”

House of Fraser to add champagne bars and yoga studios

One of the plans to boost sales is to add champagne bars, yoga studios and wellbeing centres, as well as a host of new restaurants, including family friendly options, as it looks to encourage customers to spend more time in stores.

The idea is to create “integrated” retailing, for instance for Mother’s Day they can buy products, alongside enjoying spa time or a meal at the restaurant. This approach will be highlighted in the new Rusden Lakes store, the retailer’s first store in 9 years that is set to open later this year, where the idea is to create a fully “integrated experience for the whole family,” explains chief customer officer David Walmsley.

The retailer is also looking to feature more buy and collect areas to make the process of ordering online and picking up in store streamlined and faster. In addition, it will be adding more family friendly in-store events, such as Santas Grottos, which will be made easier with its tie-up with Hamleys.

House of Fraser to adopt a new approach to sales

The department store also reiterated that it will be offering fewer discounts to reduce stock levels, as sales are not “reflective of the premium look” the brand is trying to showcase said Maria Hollins, executive director of product and trading.

The brand will be adopting a “first price, right price” strategy, as it looks to add transparency to customers in its pricing, which Hollins said would be “competitive”. By offering fewer sales Hollins states that staff will be able to assist more customers on the brand’s experiences and services rather than constantly reorganising stock.

To assist the shorter shaper sales and to make them more effective, the retailer will also be looking to reduce stock levels, which in turn will lead to decluttering the shop floor and make the store nicer to shop in, with the aim of making the stores look “more premium,” added Hollins.

House of Fraser pushing forward with international expansion

When Sanpower, led by founder Yuan Yafei, bought the retailer it stated that expansion in China would be extensive, with 50 stores first touted. Slevin confirmed that the retailer is still pushing forward with its international expansion in the region, but he was aiming at 20 stores over the next five years in China.

The retailer has already started making an impression in the region with its refurbishment of an existing store in Nanjing, and it states that it is currently looking for the right locations, whether that’s to build a new store or to refurbish, adding that location is key.

“No two of our stores are the same, size or location,” said Slevin. “Our strength is being adaptable. We look to our local market and adapt, we are taking this UK model internationally, like in China.”

Slevin added: “We are not adopting a cookie-cutter approach, we will be adopting a bespoke approach.”

He added that “active negotiations” were currently on the way for stores in the Middle East, which he said could be franchise or standalone brand stores such as for Biba, and that the company is looking at different formats such as a House of Fraser light, but added that it was “not a priority right now”.

Images: courtesy of House of Fraser

House of Fraser