MP urges House of Fraser boss to put Birkenhead workforce at centre of new online strategy

Wirral Globe - 11 Jun 2018
Birkenhead MP Frank Field has today tabled a tabled a parliamentary question demanding to know what extra resources are to be put in place to help staff affected by the closure of the town's House of Fraser store.

He is also urging the chief executive of the stricken high street chain to consider placing the Birkenhead premises and workforce at the centre of his online shopping strategy, retraining redundant workers to meet the "next stage" of the business's development.

House of Fraser last week announced it is to close 31 of its 59 shops, affecting 6,000 jobs, as part of a rescue deal.

If the plan is approved, 2,000 jobs will go, along with 4,000 brand and concession roles.

The stores scheduled for closure - which include its Birkenhead town centre outlet - will stay open until early 2019, House of Fraser said.

The firm's boss said the decision to close stores was "as tough as it gets."

Chief executive Alex Williamson described the move as "brutal" adding "we have not taken this decision lightly."

"It is very dramatic for people that we care about a great deal," he said.

Mr Field has now written to Mr Williamson saying: "Might I please propose an alternative suggestion for the use of the Birkenhead store, which both boosts your online sales strategy and draws upon the strength of the local 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...where you have tremendously loyal staff?

"I am sure they would wish to develop their skills further to meet the next stage of the life of House of Fraser."

The MP told the Globe: "We’ve got to assist House of Fraser to think most creatively about its future in Birkenhead and the rest of the country.

"I’m also calling together a summit in the coming weeks for the local authority to outline what its development plans are for our shopping precinct."

The parliamentary question, by coincidence to Esther McVey, a former Wirral MP who is now works and pensions chief, says: "To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will allocate additional resources to Birkenhead Jobcentre Plus to support House of Fraser employees whose jobs will be lost as a result of that company's decision to close its store in Birkenhead."

Accountancy firm KPMG which is overseeing the insolvency process said the firm had been hit by "mounting pressures facing the UK High Street".

In addition to the closures the chain is seeking to cut rents by 25% on ten of the stores it is keeping open.

The retailer needs the approval of 75% of its creditors to go ahead with the rescue plan.

Creditors will vote on the plan on June 22

Leigh Marles, Wirral Globe