The department stores in the Norwich, Metro Centre, Lakeside and Nottingham malls – which were due to close in early 2019 – will now continue to trade, saving more than 1,000 jobs.
It was reported last year that talks between Intu and Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley had descended into acrimony, with the sportswear tycoon threatening to pull all of its brands out of the company’s centres.
“Intu has demonstrated it is unwilling to help retailers save stores and jobs,” he said at the time. The threat would have affected 15 stores, including branches of Sports Direct and Evans Cycles, in Intu centres.
“After the stalled talks with Intu we are happy to announce that we have come to an agreement that will help secure the future of House of Fraser Intu stores in Norwich, Metro Centre, Lakeside and Nottingham,” said Sports Direct’s head of elevation, Mike Murray. “This is great news for over 1,000 employees whose jobs have now been saved.”
Intu said that following “constructive” discussions with Sports Direct it had reached an “interim agreement” with the retail group.
Ashley snapped up the stricken department store chain for £90m last summer but is still finalising how many of its 59 stores will continue to trade. To date it has made deals on 37 stores with Ashley also acquiring the landmark Frasers building in Glasgow for £95m.
Department stores are having a difficult time as shoppers cut back on spending and make fewer visits to the high street. When Sports Direct updated investors last month it revealed House of Fraser was losing nearly £3m a week.
That has not deterred the controversial billionaire from doing more deals, adding bike specialist Evans Cycles to his retail empire in the autumn. Sports Direct also holds stakes in multiple listed high street chains including the struggling Debenhams business.