Fringe Box



Ashley Puts Guildford’s Giant House Of Fraser Building Up For Let

Published on: 2 Feb, 2020
Updated on: 2 Feb, 2020

As online trade continues to ravage retail sales, the huge House of Fraser store in Guildford’s prestigious town centre has been advertised for let. But, according to the internet property listing, the shop’s staff have not been officially informed.

The front page of Green & Partners brochure for the premises currently occupied by House of Fraser.

Described by estate agent Green & Partners as a “big opportunity”, the 185,000 sq ft shop at 105 to 111 High Street is one of the town’s largest.

Although particulars are discoverable online, readers are warned that staff have not been made aware that the tenancy is being advertised.

The property brochure also suggests options such as dividing the famous shop into a 50,000 sq ft High Street unit and a 30,000 sq ft one on 61 to 64 North Street, adding: “Subject to demand, consideration will be given to a variation of this opportunity.”

The House of Fraser in the centre of the High Street is being advertised for let as a full ‘repairing and insuring lease or leases for a term to be agreed’.

Nationally, as well as in Guildford, falling footfall has closed many town centre businesses. House of Fraser had also been accused of not investing enough in online trading opportunities.

Part of a map in the Green & Partners’ brochure showing the property’s extensive and dominating position on Guildford’s High Street.

Starting tomorrow (February 3), the store is reducing opening, cutting five and a half hours from the 60-hour week advertised on its website.

New shop opening hours announced at House of Fraser in Guildford.

House of Fraser was bought by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct for £90 million in August 2018 but has been in trouble ever since. Just a year later, Mr Ashley was quoted as saying that even while paying no rent, some stores were “unsustainable”.

He added: “On a scale out of five, with one being very bad and five being very good, House of Fraser is a one. We are trying very hard to turn the business around but this will not be quick and it will not be easy.

“If we had the gift of hindsight we might have made a different decision in August 2018.”

A staff manager in the store said she could not comment. The Guildford Dragon NEWS has asked head office for a comment

The current House of Fraser store has had a varied past with furniture sales, bootmakers and butchers all occupying the site at one time or other.

Furniture retailer, Williamson’s, moved into what today is the right-hand part of the building in 1847 with Queen Mary as a regular customer in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Colebrook’s the butchers (founded in 1827) and boot makers and retailers Hilton’s. Williamsons Old English Furniture, the furniture retailer, can be seen to the right.

Harveys of Guildford took over the former Williamsons premises in 1950 and by the 1960s, they had expanded into the site we know today.

It was Guildford’s best known department store but it gained a substantial rival when Plummers (now Debenhams) opened in Millbrook in 1968.

Harveys was bought out by the House of Fraser group in the 70’s. It was initially called Army & Navy Stores but later changed its name to House of Fraser.

In 1993, the Guildford store underwent major refurbishment that included the re-opening of its iconic rooftop cafeteria.

The department store, Harveys of Guildford, was on the current House of Fraser site since the 1950’s and 60’s.

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Responses to Ashley Puts Guildford’s Giant House Of Fraser Building Up For Let

  1. Harry Elson Reply

    February 2, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    Well well, I am not surprised. A week before Christmas, I tried in vain to buy three Items in the House of Fraser but not a chance. So I went down to Debenhams and to my surprise, the same outcome.

    The writing is on the wall. Both businesses are in terminal decline. I am sad to say there will be only one outcome.

  2. John Rigg Reply

    February 3, 2020 at 8:35 am

    Until the government requires internet sales to include a sales tax on transactions so we can lighten the penal rates burden on retailers, will our high streets continue to decline?

    It is an uneven battle with, l fear, only one winner and one loser and the one paying tax will lose. It is very sad for Guildford and all high streets.

    The question is are internet companies now more powerful than governments and beyond taxation and making a fair contribution?

    John Rigg is a R4GV councillor for Holy Trinity and the lead councillor for Major Projects on the council executive.

  3. R Redpath Reply

    February 3, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Wouldn’t it make a wonderful town centre square

  4. Geoffrey Davis Reply

    February 4, 2020 at 6:14 am

    So, the leaseholder is presumably looking for ways of lowering the rental and business rates obligations. The biggest challenge would be getting light and air into the central section.

    The first thoughts on uses would include hotel with potentially residential and gyms in the upper floors.

    Canada Life Insurance Company own the freehold of 111-113 High Street and 60a – 64 North Street. They paid £31,364,000 for it in April 2009 and the whole property is leased to House of Fraser (Stores) Ltd on a term until July 2039 with many cautions and notices on both titles.

    Much will therefore depend on whether the lease allows for subletting in part, and the attitude of Canada Life.

  5. Ruth Brothwell Reply

    February 4, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    I have long been keen to look at Guildford starting up a vibrant indoor market. Might this work in White Lion Walk??

    Might the retailers enjoying White Lion move to become part of a vibrant retail and hospitality destination within the current House of Fraser Building?

    Thinking of cities like Oxford – people go to the market and it provides outlets for many small entrepreneurs to help get them going as sustainable businesses. An indoor market would provide a great creative atmosphere and would fit in well with our heritage town.

    This needn’t be all bad.

  6. Wayne Osmar-smith Reply

    February 4, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    About time because as soon as Mike Ashley brought House of Fraser it was doomed to be just another Sports Direct.

  7. Jan Messinger Reply

    February 4, 2020 at 11:14 pm

    Thinking about how so many people shop online now, it is sad. I thought people wanted to improve the environment.

    How is this so with all those boxes and packaging and endless vehicles driving all over the borough day and night to bring everyone their many daily deliveries. Perhaps the high street shopping we have done for so long isn’t so bad after all.

    Plus you walk around shops and communicate rather than ordering your items in isolation, never moving from the sofa. We know people’s mental health is suffering however people are becoming isolated.

    You could say we are going full circle, after all 50 years ago groceries and goods were delivered by van to those who could afford it. However what will become of our historic town with no retail shops?

    I do think with Guildford being the home of the games industry perhaps we should engage with what we are doing well. Guildford is known as ” Hollywood of video games” and now we could have facilities for people to take part in these activities as part of a community in a shop rather than on their own. Some shop owners may have to apply for change of use because I’m sure coffee and food would be required. However just think how people’s mental health could improve engaging with others. I’m sure the gaming industry could rent a closed shop in Guildford.

    Another idea could be to rent one of these larger shops and trial a new Guildford museum. After all, it’s going to cost a lot to build the new one planned as well as the time to deliver the project. I would rather have it now. This would be another reason to get people back into our town and hopefully the stores that are still surviving will have greater custom.

    We have so many wonderful independent businesses in Guildford but they need us to spend money with them to survive. It’s like everyone says use it or loose it.

    • Jackie Montague Reply

      February 27, 2020 at 12:13 pm

      Just wanted to say well done to Jan Messinger’s comments regarding Guildford town.

      If we don’t use the shops, we will lose them.

  8. Roger Main Reply

    February 7, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Debenhams now House of Fraser, Ashley took on Debenhams and lost. The same will happen to this store. Lack of investment in staff and product.

    There is no way any one will take it on with the current Lease Terms.

    What the council should do is review the buisness rate.

    Debenhams tried and failed.

    What a shame, greedy landlords and equity companies and an unhelpful council.

    No wonder people shop on line.

  9. Georgina Grant Reply

    February 10, 2020 at 4:58 pm

    Guildford will soon become a ghost town.

    Three of my favourite stores, East, Monsoon and now Pure have all left.

    I like to feel the fabric, see the colour and try the fit when I am purchasing clothes. I do not want to buy them online, forever having to send things back. What a waste of time and energy, not to mention the transport miles.

    I went to Debenhams last week and was disgusted at the poor choice offered, full of unsuitable items. I prefer House of Fraser for concessions, but it looks as though the loss of this store will limit my choice still further.

  10. Brian Holt Reply

    February 10, 2020 at 8:43 pm

    I see suggestions have been made by people to move the bus station to Bedford Road area.

    This will result in even less people coming into the town centre because the elderly, those short of breath, the disabled, young mothers with young children, it will be to far for them to walk to the shops and back again with shopping.

    How will they cross the busy Onslow Street?

    If you want the public to use buses, they need to go into the town centre where shoppers and people working in the town need to go.

  11. Georgina Grant Reply

    February 11, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Brian Holt writes a very sensible comment.

    As an older person, I certainly don’t want to have to carry my shopping all the way to Bedford Road. The present bus station is in the best location, it just needs updating.

    Horsham and St Helier in Jersey have excellent bus stations. We need to persuade more people to come into town by bus.

    I use the Artington Park and Ride, despite living five minutes walk from a bus stop, because of the frequency of service and the fact there is a bus shelter there and the convenience of being able to take my shopping straight to my car. Judging by its popularity, there seem to be many like-minded people.

    • Wayne Osmar-smith Reply

      February 18, 2020 at 7:17 pm

      If you want to help save shops and the high street, it’s simple and I can’t understand why the council can’t get it.

      Reduce car parking charges!

  12. Margaret Heiberg Reply

    May 22, 2020 at 8:59 am

    People have shopped with their feet; no doubt the same people that fly frequently, buy most of their things in plastics and don’t investment buy.

    We are a product of our habits but also those that have been created for us.

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