Mike Ashley delivered a damning verdict of the British high street when he faced MPs on Monday (3 December). He claimed that mainstream high streets were “already dead” and that department stores were stuck with “prehistoric rents” set before the internet, meaning that unless something drastic is done the British high street “won’t make 2030”.
Reflecting on his £90m acquisition of House of Fraser, the Sports Direct boss told MPs on the housing, communities and local government committee& that the department store is in a “terrible state” and insisted he had never promised to keep all 59 stores open.
“What person could keep 59 stores open? It can’t be done,” Ashley stated.
When the chain collapsed into administration in August the Sports Direct CEO pledged to keep 23 locations open, however the future of many still hangs in the balance. Take House of Fraser on Manchester’s Deansgate, the fate of which was only saved on Friday (30 November) securing 568 jobs.
Ashley told MPs that landlords were beginning to realise that investment is needed to take the chain upmarket and achieve his vision of making House of Fraser the “Harrods of the high street”.
Landlords might be coming round to Ashley’s way of thinking, but