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‘It is terribly sad for the whole of Norwich’: Staff plead with House of Fraser boss to save store

PUBLISHED: 14:54 01 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:28 02 December 2018

House of Fraser owner and  Mike Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United Football Club. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

House of Fraser owner and Mike Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United Football Club. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

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Staff at a doomed Norwich department store have written a letter pleading with its owner to reconsider the “devastating” decision to close it.

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

The letter, said to be “from the hearts of all the staff” at House of Fraser in Norwich, asks controversial businessman Mike Ashley – who saved the store chain from collapse in June in a £90m deal – to consider keeping their workplace open.

The Norwich store employs around 300 people, was the anchor tenant of Chapelfield shopping centre when it opened and is one of the retailer’s branches which still turns a profit.

Plans for its closure were revealed in a shock announcement in November, with March 2019 hinted at as a possible closing date.

The letter was written by Jane Webb, an account manager in the store’s beauty department. She said the staff were grateful to Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley for “generously” swooping into 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.

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

Ms Webb, whose daughter also works at the Chapelfield store, says she has “loved working in such an amazing store with incredible people” and described the team in the beauty hall as “one big family”.

She said customers visit the store from as far afield as Colchester and Bedford.

A staff member from House of Fraser at Intu Chapelfield in Norwich has penned a letter to Mike Ashley asking him to reconsider the store's closure. Picture: Neil DidsburyA staff member from House of Fraser at Intu Chapelfield in Norwich has penned a letter to Mike Ashley asking him to reconsider the store's closure. Picture: Neil Didsbury

In the letter she said she “respected” Mr Ashley as a businessman, but added: “I just implore you please to just maybe somehow rethink about our closure of our home HOF as so many lives will be changed and affected and shopping will never quite be the same in Norwich.”

Chapelfield’s centre manager has hinted that the vacant House of Fraser unit could be redeveloped into a leisure or entertainment complex, similar to that which is being developed at Castle Mall in the city.

House of Fraser has been approached for comment.

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