DEBATE: Is Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley the best person to turn House of Fraser around?

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Mike Ashley saved House of Fraser from closure by acquiring it. (Source: Getty)

Is Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley the best person to turn House of Fraser around?


YES, says David Blair, global chief executive of FITCH.

The British high street is crying out for a saviour, and why shouldn’t it be Mike Ashley? He’s a shrewd retailer driving Sports Direct to win against new-age competitors like Amazon.

Ashley knows how to get the right brands for the right price, and ventures like Flannels also prove his capabilities in luxury fashion.

The department store is an endangered species, but John Lewis and Selfridges show how to create relevance for customers. The challenge is how to bring back customers to House of Fraser’s network of stores.

The temptation is to completely reshape the product, experience, and customer service to make it more relevant to today.


Ashley’s recent £132m investment in French Connection, Findel, and Game shows a willingness to spend. And investment is exactly what the House of Fraser group needs.

Should he pull it off, success will come with a slice of redemption – proving he is able to move with the times and shrug off past criticisms.

Read more: Sports Direct saves House of Fraser Oxford Street from closure

NO, says Hedley Aylott, founder of Productcaster.

Mike Ashley wants to solidify his position as a high street kingpin, vowing to keep 80 per cent of House of Fraser’s stores open.

Yet, glaringly there’s no mention of an online strategy.

It’s now a reality that retailers can no longer rely solely on bricks and mortar, because they can and need to be open 24/7 online.

House of Fraser stood out from other victims of the high street cull in that it made strides to invest in ecommerce.

But since the takeover, the retailer’s website has been down because Ashley’s haughty vision doesn’t account for beleaguered suppliers.

Sports Direct’s online customer experience is nearly as bad as in-store, but unlike House of Fraser, consumers have low expectations and tolerate it.

A powerful ecommerce offering is ultimately what will save the brand, and Ashley needs to rapidly grasp the fact that an online store – combined with the power of marketplaces like Google Shopping – will save House of Fraser.

Read more: Mike Ashley to turn House of Fraser into 'Harrods of the high street'