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House of Fraser latest victim to online competition

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House of Fraser, Swindon – image courtesy of GoogleHouse of Fraser, Swindon – image courtesy of GoogleNews that Swindon's House of Fraser store is earmarked for closure was met with sadness in the town this week.

The department store chain plans to close 31 of its 59 stores to stay afloat. Six thousand jobs are at risk, including 2,000 people employed directly by House of Fraser, and 4,000 working for concessions inside the stores.

The store, which occupies a large site at Canal Walk, has already gone through one closure of sorts – at the height of the recession in 2008 it rebranded as a House of Fraser outlet store, selling end-of-line branded stock.

House of Fraser chairman Frank Slevin said "The retail industry is undergoing fundamental change and House of Fraser urgently needs to adapt to this fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive.

"Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business."

Locally, business leaders were sympathetic. Ian Larrard, director of the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative at Business West, said: "The retail environment has changed drastically in recent years, meaning that House of Fraser are no longer just competing with Debenhams, John Lewis Home or Marks & Spencer locally, but with Amazon, eBay and other online retailers, meaning that ultimately tough decisions have to be made."

Expressing his hopes that the closure "won’t hurt Swindon too much" and that "the decline in the number of retail businesses in the town centre can be offset by growth in leisure and hospitality sector", Ian added: "as the retail sector continues to modernise, jobs in stores are being replaced with new, highly skilled jobs in e-commerce and technology for example.

"In my view, town centres are changing to a far more diverse environment with a combination of retail, leisure and of course residential.”