Ash­ley makes £100m bet on web boost

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Laura Onita and Si­mon Foy

‘We’re still very much a bricks-and-clicks busi­ness, not clicks-and-bricks, and we are try­ing to stay ahead’

MIKE ASH­LEY’S re­tail em­pire Frasers is to plough £100m into on­line ex­pan­sion and open stores in shop­ping cen­tres as it seeks to profit from the col­lapse of high street ri­vals.

The busi­ness – which owns brands in­clud­ing Sports Di­rect, House of Fraser and Flan­nels – is seek­ing to ramp up internet sales and snap up space on the cheap for high-end shops fol­low­ing a host of in­dus­try fail­ures.

Frasers will also close more of its 1,534 stores if they are un­able to turn a profit as it seeks to fo­cus on the best­per­form­ing ar­eas.

The com­pany re­mains wed­ded to bricks and mor­tar at a time when many ri­vals are be­ing forced to dras­ti­cally slim down, but also wants to con­quer more of the dig­i­tal mar­ket.

Frasers added that nor­mal­ity is re­turn­ing to the high street and un­veiled a 20pc drop in an­nual profits.

Chris Woot­ton, fi­nance chief, said: “We’re still very much a bricks-and­clicks busi­ness, not a clicks-and-bricks busi­ness, but we are try­ing to stay ahead of the curve on the dig­i­tal. We’ve put a num­ber on it and we will be push­ing on with it.”

Frasers is also eye­ing more lease­hold sites it could rent in shop­ping cen­tres as ri­vals strug­gle to keep stores open.

Mr Woot­ton said: “We’ve been on a free­hold ac­qui­si­tion strat­egy, and it’s [not] fin­ished, but there are more lease­hold op­por­tu­ni­ties out there.”

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