Spot­light on Belfast House of Fraser as Sports Direct is in land­lord talks

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY MAR­GARET CAN­NING

THE fu­ture of Belfast’s House of Fraser store is un­der the spot­light, the Belfast Tele­graph can re­veal, af­ter its land­lord con­firmed it’s now in con­tact with the chain’s new own­ers.

House of Fraser Belfast land­lord Com­merz Real told this news­pa­per it was in “con­tact” with Sports Direct, led by ty­coon Mike Ash­ley, which bought the re­tailer out of ad­min­is­tra­tion last month. Sports Direct an­nounced at the week­end that it will close down House of Fraser shops in Ed­in­burgh, Swin­don and Hull, blam­ing land­lords for fail­ing to come to new terms with them as own­ers.

A spokesman for Com­merz Real told the Belfast Tele­graph: “We do not have any in­di­ca­tion that House of Fraser will close in our cen­tre, and we are at a very early stage in the talks with Sports Direct.

“As I said, we have been very sat­is­fied with House of Fraser per­for­mance and would like to fur­ther co-op­er­ate with them.”

Last month Com­merz Real said it had been happy with how the re­tailer had per­formed here, but added that “we are also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing grow­ing in­ter­est in the rental space from other well-known mar­ket play­ers”.

Sports Direct did not re­spond to re­quests for de­tails on its plan for the 120,000 sq ft House of Fraser su­per­store in Belfast, the an­chor ten­ant at Vic­to­ria Square shop­ping cen­tre.

Bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Ash­ley has called land­lords who have failed to come to new terms by of­fer­ing rent re­duc­tions “greedy”. Ed­in­burgh is the first Scot­tish House of Fraser to face the chop out of a to­tal of four.

Aod­han Con­nolly, the head of the North­ern Ire­land Re­tail Con­sor­tium, wel­comed news of talks open­ing be­tween the own­ers of Vic­to­ria Square and Sports Direct.

“The city cen­tre of Belfast has al­ready seen a lot of shops close down and con­sumers would like the cer­tainty of know­ing what will hap­pen to House of Fraser. Hope­fully it will be con­cluded very quickly.”

He said the con­tin­ued suc­cess of the an­chor store in Vic­to­ria Square was cru­cial to the city of Belfast.

“Ten years on from when it was built, Vic­to­ria Square is still the most im­pres­sive re­tail prop­erty that we have in North­ern Ire­land,” Mr Con­nolly con­tin­ued.

He be­lieved it was well po­si­tioned when com­pared to many of the House of Fraser’s 58 other stores. “House of Fraser Belfast is a new prop­erty and the com­pany had an in­put into how it was built. It fits House of Fraser like a glove. House of Fraser may not be that sym­bi­otic with other prop­er­ties it’s in, but in Belfast they were made for each other,” he said.

But he added that Com­merz Real would eas­ily find an­other ten­ant for the unit, were it to be­come va­cant. “Vic­to­ria Square is a land­mark re­tail prop­erty and if it did come up for rental, then it wouldn’t stay on the mar­ket for long,” Mr Con­nolly com­mented.

Up­beat: Aod­han Con­nolly

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