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House of Fraser boss ignores plea from Norwich staff to keep their store open

PUBLISHED: 09:18 30 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:45 30 December 2018

House of Fraser boss Mike Ashley. Staff at the company's Norwich store have yet to receive a response to a letter they sent him about the store's closure. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

House of Fraser boss Mike Ashley. Staff at the company's Norwich store have yet to receive a response to a letter they sent him about the store's closure. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

PA Wire

The boss of House of Fraser has blanked staff from its Norwich branch who pleaded with him to keep the store open.

Staff in the beauty department at House of Fraser in Norwich. One of the team, Jane Webb (second from left), has written a letter to the company's new owner Mike Ashley asking him to reconsider the closure of the store. Picture: Jane WebbStaff in the beauty department at House of Fraser in Norwich. One of the team, Jane Webb (second from left), has written a letter to the company's new owner Mike Ashley asking him to reconsider the closure of the store. Picture: Jane Webb

Earlier this month staff member Jane Webb penned a letter to controversial tycoon Mike Ashley – who saved the company from collapse in June – asking him to reconsider the decision to close the store in Chapelfield.

But almost a month on Ms Webb, an account manager in the store’s beauty department, says she has had no word of response from Mr Ashley or any of his representatives.

However, she said she and her colleagues have been inundated with messages of support from customers about the closure – which could happen as soon as March 2019.

Ms Webb said: “I have had absolutely hundreds of customers coming up to me and saying how devastated they are. Every other customer who shops in here ask about the closure and are equally upset.”

The Norwich branch, which employs around 300 people, is one of four earmarked for closure from the company’s 58-store estate – along with those at Lakeside in Essex, the Metrocentre in Gateshead, and Nottingham.

Sports Direct boss Mr Ashley, who bought the 169-year-old retail chain for £90m, said he was unable to reach a deal with landlord Intu Properties to keep the stores open.

In her letter to Mr Ashley, Ms Webb said the staff were grateful to Mr Ashley for “generously” swooping in to save House of Fraser from administration – but that the closure of the Norwich store will be “life-changing” for many people and “terribly sad” for the city.

“The amounts of disappointed customers who come up to us every day saying how devastated they are we are closing is very sad,” she said.

House of Fraser is set to close its Norwich store at Intu Chapelfield in spring 2019. Picture: Neil DidsburyHouse of Fraser is set to close its Norwich store at Intu Chapelfield in spring 2019. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“The loss which Chapelfield and Intu are going to have will be catastrophic in both footfall and revenue because so many people just come to Norwich for HOF.”

She added: “Shopping will never quite be the same in Norwich.”

Chapelfield’s centre manager has tried to remain upbeat about the departure of House of Fraser, which was the centre’s anchor tenant when it opened.

He hinted that the vacant unit could be redeveloped into a leisure or entertainment complex, similar to that which is being developed at Castle Mall in the city.

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