House of Fraser is a British department store group with 62 stores across the United Kingdom and Ireland. The flagship London store is House of Fraser on Oxford Street in London whilst the retailer has recently undertaken its largest new store opening in Belfast. Like fellow retailers John Lewis and Selfridges, it is known for its popularity with the middle classes and perceived exclusivity.
Over the years House of Fraser has purchased a number of famous stores, such as Jenners of Edinburgh, Howells of Cardiff, David Evans of Swansea, Rackhams of Birmingham, the Beatties department stores, and Harrods of Knightsbridge (which is now owned privately). It has a long term strategy of re-branding its stores under the 'House of Fraser' name. Former well known names such as Dickins & Jones (Regent Street, London), D H Evans (Oxford Street, London), Army & Navy (Victoria, London), and Kendals in Manchester have all disappeared or been rebranded.
The early years
The Company established a wholesale trade in adjoining premises in Argyle Street. In 1856 the wholesale business moved to a larger site in Miller Street, Glasgow and started to trade under the name Arthur & Co. The retail side of the business expanded into the vacant buildings left by the wholesale side.
During the late 1850s and early 1860s the retail business was run by a professional manager - first Thomas Kirkpatrick and then Alexander McLaren. In 1865 the partnership between the partners was dissolved and Fraser assumed control of the retail business leaving Arthur with the wholesale business. In 1865 Alexander McLaren joined the retail business and the name was changed to Fraser & McLaren.
Fraser & Sons
When the first Hugh Fraser died in 1873, his three eldest sons, James, John and Hugh, acquired stakes in the business. James and John Fraser were initially directors in the business and employed Alexander McLaren and later John Towers to manage it for them. In 1891 Hugh also joined the partnership which by then was called Fraser & Sons.
In 1879 the current flagship store on Oxford Street in London was opened by Dan Harries Evans, a 23 year old from Whitemill in Carmarthenshire, Wales who had previously been apprenticed to a draper in Forest hamlet near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. He moved to London in 1878 to set up his own business in Westminster Bridge Road. The store traded under the D H Evans name until 2001.
By 1900 Hugh Fraser II was in charge: he incorporated the business as Fraser & Sons Ltd in 1909 and introduced the famous stag’s head.
Growth and expansion
After Hugh Fraser II died in 1927, his son Hugh Fraser III, an accountant, became Chairman of the business. He opened new departments, enlarged the tearoom, opened a restaurant and also began to look at possible acquisitions.
In 1936 Fraser purchased Arnott & Co Ltd and its neighbour Robert Simpson & Sons Ltd in nearby Argyle Street, merging the companies to help improve trade. Between 1936 and 1985 over seventy companies, not including their subsidiaries, were acquired.
1950s to 1970s
In 1948 the Company, now named House of Fraser, was first listed on the London Stock Exchange. Then in 1951, the Company purchased McDonalds Ltd, and with it a branch in Harrogate. Fraser then purchased the Scottish Drapery Corporation in 1952, followed by the Sunderland based Binns group of stores in 1953.
Fraser sold the property sites to insurance companies, leasing them back for long terms at advantageous rates. This enabled the release of capital for the purchase of new premises and the modernisation of existing stores. In 1957 the Kensington store group of John Barker & Co Ltd was acquired and in 1959 Harrods and Dickins & Jones also joined the Group.
Sir Hugh Fraser succeeded his father as Chairman of the company when his father died in 1966. Sir Hugh resumed the expansion of the company in 1969 with the takeover of J. J. Allen Ltd, a Bournemouth based group.
During the 1970s the House of Fraser Group acquired more companies including: T. Baird & Sons Ltd of Scotland, Switzer & Co. Ltd, Dublin, Ireland and E. Dingle & Co. Ltd, Chiesmans Ltd, Hide & Co and the Army & Navy Stores in southern England, as well as a number of independent stores, totalling over fifty stores during the decade. In 1973 it was considering merging with the British pharmacy company Boots, and was even subject to a written answer in the House of Commons. The government decided to ban the proposed merger in 1974.
In 1981 Prof. Roland Smith succeeded Sir Hugh Fraser as chairman. A takeover bid by Lonrho was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and declared to be contrary to the public interest. Four new stores opened between 1980 and 1984.
The Company, by then House of Fraser plc, diversified into sports goods under the name of Astral sports and into funerals with Wylie & Lochhead. It also launched the YOU range of cosmetics and jewellery shops and in 1985 acquired Turnbull & Asser Holdings Ltd, shirt makers of Jermyn Street, London and Kurt Geiger Holdings Ltd, shoe retailers.
Other developments during the 1980s included the introduction of "Lifestyle" merchandise ranges and a huge investment in store refurbishment nationwide. In 1983 the Company introduced the Frasercard, valid at all stores and administered from a central computing facility in Swindon.
Late 1980s and 1990s
In 1985 the Al Fayed family bought the business for £615 million. The Al Fayeds supported the continuing expansion of the company and replaced the stag's head logo with a stag leaping creating an "F" shadow.
In 1994, before House of Fraser plc was relisted on the London Stock Exchange, Harrods was moved out of the group so that it could remain under the private ownership of the Al Fayed family. John Coleman, who was appointed Chief executive of the House of Fraser Group in 1996, launched the Linea brand in 1997 and Platinum and Fraser the following year.
House of Fraser set up BL Fraser, a 50-50 joint venture with the British Land Company, in 1999 to buy 15 House of Fraser stores that would continue to be operated by House of Fraser. The company added to its private-label brands in 2000 with House of Fraser womenswear, The Collection menswear, and a Linea Home line.
The Company opened stores in Croydon's new Centrale shopping centre in 2004, at the same time closing the store in Bromley as well as opening a store in the Chapelfield Shopping Centre, Norwich in September 2005 as well as its first store outside the UK in Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin, Ireland also in 2005.
The 135-year-old Barkers business in Kensington High Street closed for the last time on 2 January 2006. Then on 14 January 2006, the company closed its Dickins & Jones store in London's Regent Street, which traces its history back more than 200 years, as well as its Beatties store in Birmingham.
In February 2006 the group announced that it had received a preliminary bid approach valuing it at £300 million, but the bidder, private equity firm Apax, later withdrew. In May 2006 House of Fraser confirmed a takeover approach from the Icelandic investor Baugur: they acquired the Company for £351.4 million in August 2006.
In September 2007 House of Fraser launched a new website, along with an online store.
The company had three major openings in 2008, including its first store in Northern Ireland in the newly built Victoria Square Centre, Belfast in March. At Template:Convert/sqft it was the largest store that House of Fraser had opened (as opposed to taken over) in the UK. On 25 September 2008 the company opened a Template:Convert/sqft store in the Cabot Circus development in Bristol., and a branch in Westfield London, a new Template:Convert/sqft store, on 30 October 2008. From Christmas 2008, House of Fraser co-operated with Regency Kitchens, in supplying kitchens of the Sheraton range with a trial in its Birmingham branch.
As of November 2008 the company operates 61 department stores (including their webstore www.houseoffraser.co.uk). Most of these trade as House of Fraser, but some continue to trade under other names such as Army & Navy, Binns, Dingles, David Evans and Rackhams. The stores are in a mixture of town and city centre and regional shopping centre locations. They are generally the largest or second largest department store in their local market. As part of the Baugur takeover all brand names for their stores, including the Beatties branches, will be replaced with the House of Fraser name with the exception of Jenners. Three town centre stores, in Doncaster, Swindon and Leicester now trade as House of Fraser Outlet Stores, offering reduced price items similar to discount department store chain TJ Hughes.
List of stores (incomplete)
House of Fraser is the third largest group of traditional department stores in the UK. Each store is being re-branded as 'House of Fraser' following an ongoing programme of refurbishments. Store closures have included Barkers in Kensington and Dickins & Jones in Regent Street, London (2006). New stores include Belfast and High Wycombe (2008). The group has stated that the historic Jenners name will be retained at stores acquired in Scotland in 2005.
- Frasers (Glasgow) - formerly McDonalds, Wylie & Lochhead / McDonalds and Wylie & Lochhead
- Frasers (Edinburgh)
- Beatties (Wolverhampton)
- Cavendish House (Cheltenham)
- House of Fraser, formerly Rackhams (Altrincham)
- House of Fraser Birmingham (Birmingham) - formerly Rackhams
- House of Fraser Hull (Hull) - formerly Hammonds
- House of Fraser Manchester (Manchester) - formerly Kendals / Kendal Milne
- House of Fraser Oxford Street (Oxford Street, London) - formerly D H Evans
- House of Fraser Plymouth (Plymouth) - formerly Dingles
- House of Fraser, Richmond Surrey - formally Dickins & Jones
- Howells (Cardiff) - formerly James Howell
- Jenners (Edinburgh)
- House of Fraser Bluewater, Kent
- House of Fraser Milton Keynes - formerly Dickins & Jones
- house of fraser bournemouth - formerly dingles / brights
House of Fraser has been plagued by weak corporate governance. One of its former directors, Jon Asgeir, is currently being investigated for fraud and is fighting allegations that he may have diverted US$2bn (£1.4bn) from collapsed Icelandic bank Glitnir. Glitnir still owes £200m to British local councils.
There have also been allegations of racist advertising campaigns in the past resulting in House of Fraser having to pull one of its adverts with the now infamous slogan "black is back, white is right".  Finally, House of Fraser has been sued for breach of copyright after admitting to use unlicensed copies of Macromedia web design software.
- House of Fraser archive project
- BBC news Friday, 17 June, 2005
- Hansard 1973 vol 864 cc113-5W
- The Glasgow Herald May 18, 1974
- House of Fraser opens its first Irish department store
- After 135 years closure of Barkers marks death of department stores
- Historic Dickens & Jones to close
- Fears for future of Beatties store
- House of Fraser reveals £300m bid approach (Times Online)
- House of Fraser profits flattered by acquisitions (The Independent)
- House of Fraser agrees Baugur bid
- House of Fraser is to launch an online shop (Accessed 16-August-2007)
- House of Fraser opens biggest ever store in Belfast
- House of Fraser to anchor Bristol Broadmead scheme
- Organic grocer replaces Barkers (Times Online)
- Baugur plans to sharpen HoF image (Times Online)
- "Store locations". House of Fraser. http://www.houseoffraser.co.uk/store+locations/M098_STORE_LOCATIONS,default,pg.html. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
- Mason, Rowena (17 May 2010). "Jon Asgeir leaves House of Fraser to fight fraud claims". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/7734116/Jon-Asgeir-leaves-House-of-Fraser-to-fight-fraud-claims.html.
- House of Fraser paid the BSA an undisclosed amount after the company admitted using unlicensed copies of Macromedia web-design software
- Consumer site
- Corporate site
- House of Fraser Ireland
- House of Fraser ban 'unethical' foie gras
- House of Fraser's Ethical Sourcing Policy
- House of Fraser's New Online Shop
- House of Fraser employee Chris Bishop's Online Marketing Blog
- Alleged fraud by House of Fraser director
- Racism by House of Fraser
- Racism by House of Fraser