Cheap hoodies in shabby stores: House of Fraser after a year of Ashley

Mike Ashley claimed great ambitions for the store chain, but its image has slipped from smart to decidedly dowdy in the 12 months since he bought it

Empty beauty counters, acres of discount sportswear and stores in need of repair. One year after Sports Direct bought House of Fraser out of administration, many of the shops now have entire floors that look more like branches of Mike Ashley’s pile-it-high sportswear outlets than an upmarket department store.

When Ashley bought the chain for £90m in the wake of its collapse in August last year, he outlined a plan to create the “Harrods of the high street” and expected to keep about 47 of the 59 stores open. Last month he admitted the chain was losing more than £1m a week, said he expected to close more stores in the year ahead and conceded that its problems were “nothing short of terminal”.

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