'Designer names in House of Fraser will stay in Hull and open up own shops when store closes', says councillor

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 11 Jul 2018

Top fashion brands such as Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren might be persuaded to open stores elsewhere in Hull when House of Fraser shuts, says a senior city councillor.

The High Street department store chain, still known as Hammonds in Hull, announced last month its intention to close 31 of its 59 stores, with Hull's iconic store off Ferensway expected to close early next year.

But Councillor Daren Hale, deputy leader of Hull City Council and the portfolio holder for economic investment, is confident some franchises - or brands - will decide to stay put in Hull, citing demand for their products.

He said: "The council is having conversations with all of the main franchises with a view to keeping them in Hull.

OPTIONS: Deputy council leader Councillor Daren Hale says the council is in talks with franchises(Image: Peter Harbour)

"We are saying to these franchises, 'Do you want premises in the city centre?' and 'Can we help put you in touch with landlords?'

READ MORE: Closing Hull city centre store owner hits out - and reveals why Whitefriargate shops are struggling

"Personally, I think they will stay in Hull. I am confident they will."

Cllr Hale pointed out it was not the decision of individual franchises to leave the House of Fraser store.

He said: "They were happily trading in House of Fraser and making money when the announcement was made. Franchises need to trade in order to make money."

Cllr Hale said Princes Quay Shopping Centre would be the "obvious choice" to relocate franchises, but he pointed out there are a number of empty units elsewhere in the city centre, such as King Edward Street.

Asked if he thinks franchises may choose to band together and open a large store, Cllr Hale said: "I would say that's the more likely option, but it's also possible one or two might take the plunge and open their own store."

END OF AN ERA: House of Fraser is closing in Hull (Image: Anna Riley)

Cllr Hale said there is compelling evidence to suggest younger generations are moving away from Internet shopping.

"The demand is there," he said. "Millennials want the shopping experience, they want to be able to grab a coffee or get something to eat as they shop.

"They want to be able to pick up clothes and try them on - things you can't do if you're shoppingonline."

The future of the building is still explored, but Cllr Hale said the owner has intimated he wants to retain it for retail.

"We may get one taker for the building," he said. "There could be a continued retail offer on the ground floor and basement level, with perhaps some apartments on the upper floors. There are a number of options."

Meanwhile, Cllr Hale said the council remains "fully committed" to its proposed £130m Albion Square development.

"Two large stores will form part of this development," he said.

Cllr Hale said he was unable to name any chains who have expressed an interest.

Last month, Martin Mancey, a former council portfolio holder for economic regeneration, said the closure announcement will have sent his former colleagues at the Guildhall scrambling to minimise the damage.

He said: "It's closure is going to have a significant impact on the city centre, not least because it is a large building in a very prominent position."

Mr Mancey suggested the building could be divided into small units, which he said might prove attractive to fledgling businesses.

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