House of Fraser is to close its Chapelfield store in Norwich

Shutting up shop. The House of Fraser store at the Intu Chapelfield shopping centre in Norwich is cl

Shutting up shop. The House of Fraser store at the Intu Chapelfield shopping centre in Norwich is closing in 2019. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

House of Fraser is to close its department store at Norwich's Chapelfield shopping centre.

The news was confirmed by the centre on Wednesday following weeks of speculation since the takeover of the chain by Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley. Stores in Intu's centres at Lakeside in Essex, the Metrocentre in Gateshead, and Nottingham will also close.

A date for the closure has not been confirmed but staff reports have suggested it could be March 2019 - with Chapelfield boss Paul McCarthy hinting that the vacated unit could be used for leisure or entertainment rather than shopping.

Paul McCarthy, general manager at Intu Chapelfield, said: 'We have been advised today that House of Fraser at Intu Chapelfield will be closing next year as part of their national stores review. We have had a number of meetings with SportsDirect to try to agree terms.

'While we cannot discuss the detail, we have not been able to reach an agreement.'

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The closure will form part of the chain's national review of stores, which was started after the failing chain was bought out of administration by Mr Ashley in a £90m deal.

The 169-year-old company's 17,000 staff, including those in Norwich, were told they would be transferred over from House of Fraser to Sports Direct.

The Norwich store was the anchor tenant for Chapelfield when it opened, but the landlord had kept its cards close to its chest during the negotiations over its future.

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House of Fraser said today it had adopted a 'flexible approach' in negotiations with the landlord Intu Properties.

The House of Fraser store at the Intu Chapelfield shopping centre in Norwich is set to close next ye

The House of Fraser store at the Intu Chapelfield shopping centre in Norwich is set to close next year.Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

'Despite our best efforts we have been unable to agree reasonable terms for these stores to continue trading,' said a spokesman.

'Sadly, we are now in consultation with staff about the fact these stores face closure. We hope other institutional landlords will continue to work with us in order to save stores and jobs.'

Mr Ashley said that despite several meetings, talks had moved no further forward after 14 weeks. He added: 'I urge other institutional landlords to be more proactive to help save the House of Fraser stores in their schemes.'

What now for Chapelfield?

Mr McCarthy said the centre was in discussions with several brands about taking space elsewhere at Chapelfield, and that there was potential to use the vacated three-storey unit differently in future.

'We also believe there is a real opportunity to reuse this space for new and exciting alternatives and have a strong track record of doing just that. Intu has recently opened a 400,000 sq ft extension at Intu Watford and are on-site at Intu Lakeside creating a £72m leisure destination set to open next year.

'Through these developments we are introducing state of the art cinema, climbing walls, golf, trampolining and the UK's first indoor Nickelodeon entertainment centre. Other leisure options could include, but are not limited to, virtual reality, gyms and escape rooms. We also have some great ideas on the table including other big retail brands and non-traditional shopping centre uses.

'Our teams continually look at options that will create the right mix of retail and leisure to meet the needs of our customers, giving them a great experience and even more reasons to smile.'

Norwich's Castle Mall has announced plans to improve its leisure offer following the departure of retailers, with a £2m bowling alley and obstacle assault course on the cards for next year.

Papers filed after House of Fraser's administration revealed that it owed nearly £500,000 to creditors in East Anglia, with the majority of that due to men's outfitters D Gurteen and Sons of Chantry Mills in Haverhill.

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