An entry in our who is the most conservative handicap stakes here.
House of Fraser, which accounts for at least 10,000 jobs on the British high street, should not be allowed to fail and at some point an ailing retail name will have to become a test of government resolve to help the industry.
The department store’s problems are shared by healthier businesses: stifling business rates, a benign tax environment for online rivals, and the lack of a properly funded government retail strategy. House of Fraser’s predicament is serious and will almost certainly become a test of the government’s ability to do something constructive about the state of the high street amid Brexit. Last week, the CBI said Britain’s retailers had recorded the longest period of falling sales for almost eight years, while at least 75,000 retail jobs have been lost since last year. Action is needed.
What action? Consumers must be forced to shop at department stores? Why?
Worth noting that ONS has reported retail sales are up - except in the department store sector. Sports Direct is reporting that some House of Fraser stores are operating at a loss even when they’re paying zero rent.
Our question thus being, well, why must a business which produces nothing of value be saved? The costs of House of Fraser existing are higher than the benefits gained by its doing so. Better, by far - assuming Mike Ashley can’t do something with it and who other than an aggressive capitalist has the incentive to do so - that the potentially productive assets be freed from that organisation and go off and do something more productive elsewhere. This including the labour, obviously, as well as the sites.
The demand to save HoF is not, as we might have thought, from some nostalgic for the old days conservative newspaper but from the impeccably liberal Observer. But then as we’ve had cause to note over the years there’s nothing so reactionary as a progressive when considering the economy.