House of Fraser

House of Fraser
House of Fraser
Type Private
Industry Retail
Founded Glasgow, Scotland, UK (1849)
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people Don McCarthy, Chairman
John King, CEO
Stefan Cassar, Executive Finance Director
Products Clothing, cosmetics, housewares
Revenue £596.0 million (2008)
Operating income £36.8 million (2008)
Net income £8.2 million (2008)
Employees 4,951 (2008)

House of Fraser is a British department store group with over 60 stores across the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was established in Glasgow, Scotland in 1849 as Arthur and Fraser. By 1891 it was known as Fraser & Sons. The company grew steadily during the early 20th century, but after the Second World War, a large number of acquisitions would transform the company into a national chain. Between 1936 and 1985 over seventy companies, not including their subsidiaries, were acquired.[1] In 1948, the company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange, and eventually was included in the FTSE 100 Index before the company was acquired by Icelandic investor Baugur in 2006.

The company's acquisitions have included numerous household names, some of which are no longer used as part of the company's long term strategy of re-branding its stores under the House of Fraser name. Over the years House of Fraser has purchased a number of famous stores, such as Army & Navy, Beatties, Dickins & Jones, Jenners, Howells, Kendals, Rackhams, Binns and Harrods of Knightsbridge (which is now owned privately). D H Evans' Oxford Street store in London was rebranded as House of Fraser in 2001 and became the chain's flagship store.

The group has been subject to many attempted takeovers by other companies, such as Boots and Lonrho, but it was the acquisition by Baugur in 2006 that brought the ownership of House of Fraser to the public's attention, and the resulting changes in its ownership, including shareholding by Lloyds Banking Group.[2]



House of Fraser on Briggate in Leeds.
House of Fraser in Belfast.

The early years

The Company was founded by Hugh Fraser and James Arthur in 1849 as a small drapery shop on the corner of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street in Glasgow, Scotland trading as Arthur and Fraser. It was like Fraser's house.[1]

Hugh Fraser had been apprenticed to Stewart & McDonald Ltd, a Glasgow drapery warehouse where he rose to the position of warehouse manager and from where he brought many of initial customers.[1]

James Arthur also owned a retail drapery business in Paisley, near Glasgow: he appointed a manager to oversee the Paisley business while he focused on his new business.[1]

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.[1]

During the late 1850s and early 1860s the retail business was run by a professional manager - first Thomas Kirkpatrick and then Alexander McLaren.[1] 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.[1]

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.[1]

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.[1]

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.[1]

After Hugh Fraser II died in 1927, his son Hugh Fraser III, an accountant, became Chairman of the business.[1] He opened new departments, enlarged the tearoom, opened a restaurant and also began to look at possible acquisitions.[1] In 1936 he purchased Arnott & Co Ltd and its neighbour Robert Simpson & Sons Ltd in nearby Argyle Street, merging the companies to help improve trade.[1] In 1948 the Company, now named House of Fraser, was first listed on the London Stock Exchange.[1]

1950s to 1970s

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.[1]

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[1] and Dickins & Jones[3] also joined the Group.

Sir Hugh Fraser succeeded his father as Chairman of the company when his father died in 1966.[1] Sir Hugh resumed the expansion of the company in 1969 with the takeover of J. J. Allen Ltd, a Bournemouth based group.[1]

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.[1] 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.[4] The government decided to ban the proposed merger in 1974.[5]

1980s and 1990s

Former House of Fraser logo

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.[1] Four new stores opened between 1980 and 1984.[1]

The company, by then House of Fraser plc, diversified into sports goods under the name of Astral Sports and Leisure (subsequently sold to Sears plc owned Olympus Sport division) 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.[1] 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.[1]

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.[1]

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.[1] 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.[1]

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.[1]

2000s to present

In 2003, Tom Hunter put forward a hostile bid for the group, with the possible intention to merge with Allders, another department store he had shareholdings in.[6]

2005 was a significant year of growth for House of Fraser with the acquisition of the four Jenners department stores in April for £46m,[7] and Beatties, a mainly Midlands based department store chain of 12 sites, for £69.4m in the summer of 2005.[8] In addition to buying companies, House of Fraser continued its own development programme and opened several more stores including its first store outside the UK in Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin, Ireland.[9]

In 2006, the company consolidated its portfolio by closing the 135-year-old Barkers business in Kensington High Street on 2 January 2006.[10] and on 14 January 2006, closed its Dickins & Jones store in London's Regent Street,[11] as well as its Birmingham Beatties store in January 2006.[12]

In February 2006 the group announced that it had received a preliminary bid approach valuing it at £300 million,[13] but the bidder, private equity firm Apax, later withdrew.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

In September 2007 House of Fraser launched its online store.,[17] and made the national news by ceasing to sell pate de foie gras.[18]

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 200,000 sq ft (19,000 m2) it was the largest store that House of Fraser had opened (as opposed to taken over) in the UK.[19] On 25 September 2008 the company opened a 170,000 sq ft (16,000 m2) store in the Cabot Circus development in Bristol,[20] and a branch in Westfield London, a new 70,000 sq ft (6,500 m2) store, on 30 October 2008.[21] 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.

Corporate governance and social responsibility

House of Fraser is a principal subsidiary by Highland Group Holdings Limited, 35% owned by Landsbanki.[22] One of its former directors, Jon Asgeir Jóhannesson, is currently being investigated for fraud and is fighting allegations that he may have diverted US$2bn (£1.4bn) from collapsed Icelandic bank Glitnir.[23]

There was an allegation of a racist advertising campaign in 2007 resulting in House of Fraser having to pull one of its adverts with the now infamous slogan "black is back, white is right".[24][25]

In 2002, House of Fraser settled an undisclosed amount for the use of illegal software.[26]


House of Fraser is the third largest group of traditional department stores in the UK with over 60 stores, sited in a mixture of town and city centre and regional shopping centre locations. Three House of Fraser Outlet stores in the town centres of Doncaster, Swindon and Leicester offer reduced price clearance and special purchase items in a discount department store environment.

House of Fraser launched its House of 'buy & collect' concept shop in October 2011 with its first location in Aberdeen.[27] These much smaller shop units display their range via a series of touch screens.

Department stores

All stores now trade under the 'House of Fraser' name, except where stated otherwise.


Northern Ireland


  • Edinburgh, Frasers (formerly Binns and originally Robert Maule & Son; acquired 1953)
  • Edinburgh, Jenners (acquired 2005)
  • Glasgow, Frasers (formerly McDonalds Wylie & Lochhead and originally McDonalds and Wylie & Lochhead; acquired 1951 and 1957 respectively)
  • Loch Lomond Shores, Jenners (acquired 2005)



House of Fraser Outlet branches

House of branches

Defunct brands

House of Fraser previously traded under many different long established brand names. A number of regional groups of stores were acquired and subsequently extended or amalgamated. The Arnotts and Frasers groups were created by House of Fraser from scratch. These key groups together with the flagship store of each one and the regions to which they are largely associated are listed below:

  • Army & Navy, Victoria Street, London and south-east England.
  • Arnotts, mid-market stores in Glasgow and across Scotland.
  • Binns, Sunderland, the north and east of England. Although the Darlington store still bears the Binns name, Binns once operated throughout the north and east.
  • Dickins & Jones, Regent Street, London and the home counties.
  • Dingles, Plymouth and south-west England.
  • Frasers, up-market stores in Glasgow and other principal Scottish cities.
  • Rackhams, Birmingham, the midlands and the north of England.

Former branches

The following department stores have closed:

The following department stores were demerged or sold as going concerns:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa House of Fraser archive project
  2. ^ House of Fraser asks Lloyds to raise stake
  3. ^ BBC news Friday, 17 June, 2005
  4. ^ Hansard 1973 vol 864 cc113-5W
  5. ^ The Glasgow Herald May 18, 1974
  6. ^ "Hostile bid for Fraser closer". London Evening Standard (London). 9 January 2003. 
  7. ^ The Guardian Second approach for Beatties, Tuesday 5 July 2005
  8. ^ London Evening Standard House of Fraser buys Beatties, 29 June 2005
  9. ^ House of Fraser opens its first Irish department store
  10. ^ After 135 years closure of Barkers marks death of department stores
  11. ^ Historic Dickens & Jones to close
  12. ^ Fears for future of Beatties store
  13. ^ House of Fraser reveals £300m bid approach (Times Online)
  14. ^ House of Fraser profits flattered by acquisitions (The Independent)
  15. ^ House of Fraser agrees Baugur bid
  16. ^ Baugur plans to sharpen HoF image (Times Online)
  17. ^ House of Fraser is to launch an online shop (Accessed 16-August-2007)
  18. ^ House of Fraser ban 'unethical' foie gras
  19. ^ House of Fraser opens biggest ever store in Belfast
  20. ^ House of Fraser to anchor Bristol Broadmead scheme
  21. ^ Organic grocer replaces Barkers (Times Online)
  22. ^ Landsbanki: Jenners not for sale
  23. ^ Mason, Rowena (17 May 2010). "Jon Asgeir leaves House of Fraser to fight fraud claims". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Wheatley, Gemma (19 February 2007). "House of Fraser removes 'racist' ad". Croydon Guardian (Croydon). 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Retail Week 21 October 2011
  28. ^ Evening Express 21 October 2011

External links

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