Frank Field's last-ditch attempt to save Birkenhead's House of Fraser store
BIRKENHEAD MP Frank Field has arranged a desperate meeting in a last-ditch attempt to save the town's House of Fraser store from closure.
In August, Sports Direct struck a deal to buy House of Fraser for £90 million through a pre-pack administration process, where a company is put into administration before a new buyer gets to pick the best assets.
Sources believe that the retail giants founder Mike Ashley will begin the process of turning some House of Fraser stores into Sports Direct outlets and rebrand others as Flannels.Before House of Fraser's collapse, Mr Ashley had an 11% stake in the chain.
Now the Globe can exclusively reveal that Mr Field wrote to Mr Ashley to request a meeting following the take-over of the popular department chain in August.
In his letter Mr Field congratulated Mr Ashley on purchasing House of Fraser.
He continued: "I have been really encouraged to read over the past couple of days of your wish to keep open the vast majority of stores."The purpose of this letter is to ask whether you might include the Birkenhead store within that group.
"The most favourable option among most of the town would, naturally, be for the store's future to be secured in its current form.
"Might I please ask whether that is an option, and, if not, would you please consider and alternative suggestion for the use of the store which both boosts your online sales strategy and draws upon the strengths of the Birkenhead workforce?
"I hope the country will begin to see a revival of House of Fraser by bringing its online shopping to the front of its activity.
"Might any such initiative you're planning on this front please be based in the Birkenhead store - a large, functional and well-placed facility - where you have a tremendously loyal staff?
"I'm sure they would wish to develop their skills further to meet the next stage of the life of House of Fraser.
"Your store in Birkenhead occupies an iconic building which, while I realise cannot be your first concern, would be a huge bonus in setting standards of preserving the environment within which House of Fraser works."Before the takeover, creditors had voted to shut Birkenhead's House of Fraser which is one of 31 earmarked for closure through a Company Voluntary Arrangement.
In response, Mr Ashley said that he would 'very much like' the opportunity to speak about the future of the Birkenhead store.
He said: "As you can appreciate things are very busy at the moment and I suggest that this meeting takes place towards the end of September.
"This will enable us to get more of a handle on the House of Fraser business in the meantime."
On Wednesday, Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell stepped down from the company ending a nine-year incumbency in the role.
Mr Hellawell retired with immediate effect following the annual meeting and will be replaced by non-executive director David Daly.
The sporting goods giant also announced that it is set to achieve between 5% and 15% growth in underlying earnings but excluded the £90 million takeover.Lauren Jones, Wirral Globe