High St SHAKE UP: Debenhams could be ‘PRIMARK-ified’ after House of Fraser takeover

SPORTS Direct owner Mike Ashley’s takeover of House of Fraser could spark a huge Brit High Street shake-up that will send shockwaves through the retail world.

The Newcastle United owner and retail tycoon’s £90million swoop of the major department store chain was announced this morning just minutes after it collapsed into administration.

And already the retail master, who owns a 29% stake in rival Debenhams, is planning big things – vowing to turn House of Fraser (HoF) into the “Harrods of the High Street”.

But despite him remaining tight-lipped over his exact plans – a retail guru has now revealed to Daily Star Online what he sees may happen.

Retail expert Andrew Busby believes two things could result from the takeover – a “House of Debenhams”, or a Primark style Debenhams and posher HoF.

The founder and chief executive of consultancy Retail Reflections told us: “With the news today that Mike Ashley has bought House of Fraser out of administration for £90m speculation is rife over what is plans might be.

“We know that he has gradually been amassing an impressive retail portfolio which now includes the likes of French Connections, Flannels and of course a stake in Debenhams. At 29% it is just short of the level at which he would need to make a formal offer.

“So does this mean that the long game is a department store consolidation? You have to question whether there is room for both House of Fraser and Debenhams on the High Street…”

Andrew told us that Ashley may plan to eventually takeover Debenhams and merge the two department chain rivals into one “House of Debenhams”.

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HOUSE OF DEBENHAMS? A retail expert gives his view on Mike Ashley’s plans

But revealing his most likely suspicion, Andrew added: “…although Ashley stated today that his ambition is to ‘transform House of Fraser into the Harrods of the High Street’.

“So perhaps, his ambitions lie at both ends of the retail spectrum; House of Fraser providing a more luxury experience and Debenhams operating at a discount level.

“After all, we know that discounters such as Primark are doing very well.

“I think that as his strategy plays out it becomes more likely that he will take House of Fraser upmarket and take Debenhams down market as the discount brand for the Group.

“However this is a tricky one because he may also have simply built up a stake in each with the aim of taking whichever lame duck failed first.

“But this could also have whetted his appetite and taking control of Debenhams would give him a nicely consolidated position on the High Street to rival anyone.”

Whichever happens, Andrew is sure of one thing – that a new battle of the High Street is on.

“This is a battle of the High Street egos between Mike Ashley and Philip Green (owner of Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge),” he added.

“If we assume that to be the case then it’s almost inevitable that this is a piece in the jigsaw and Ashley will make a move on Debenhams next.”

Daily Star Online has contacted Sports Direct for comment on a potential “House of Debenhams”. It has not responded to the claim.

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