Grimsby’s House of Fraser store is to become the first ‘retail experience’ in England from emerging concession model operator 15:17 Ltd.
The company has taken on the town centre site, and aims to “draw people in for a few hours not just a quick one-off purchase”.
15:17, launched early last year, will transform the 120,000 sq ft facility into a “community within a community,” offering the ability to provide leisure, retail and other services in a single location, after the landlord served time on House of Fraser after it secured a rent-free stay of execution last summer.
Mike Ashley’s department store had remained in Grimsby as one of a clutch of closure U-turns after he bought out the high street giant in July 2018.
But the shutters will come down in March, as revealed before Christmas, emerging as a 15:17 shortly after, with April mooted.
The company has already launched the concept in Ayr, Scotland, taking on the former BHS Store, with a second in Kilcaldy, north of Edinburgh, set to open in February in a former Debenhams.
It is chaired by Julia Reynolds, an experienced head from the high street, who has held chief executive roles with Antler, Blacks Leisure and Figleaves.com. She was director of buying and merchandising at Tesco, where she launched the Florence and Fred (F&F) clothing brand.
Managing director is Mercier Mainwaring, whose 45-year retail CV includes Etam, Debenhams, M&Co and MK One.
Central sites have been targeted, with high footfall, with a stated aim of fusing national and local names.
Setting the scene, the company says it is agile enough to adapt to the different type of shopping experience now demanded by the consumer – as British retailing undergoes “the largest change in 50 years”.
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“We are not just a concession space, we offer experiences and services that draw people in for a few hours and not just a quick one-off purchase,” it says.
“Imagine a store where alongside shopping and browsing you can take an exercise class, see your optician, meet friends for lunch, attend a fashion show, have your hair done by professionals, take the kids to soft play and even post a letter or parcel while collecting your weekly veg box from the local farmers market – our store is designed to bring leisure, pleasure and service back to the high street.
“This is a community within a community all under one roof where national meets local – we all grow together.”
The model works with a site manager responsible for the entire unit, with security guards to cover opening hours and cleaning and staff facilities.
Rent, rates, heating, lighting and wifi are all included in one charge, with 2.5 per cent of the fee dedicated to marketing.
The store, which enjoys a dual frontage to Victoria Street and Freshney Place, is held dear by the town, with trading roots stretching back to the start of the 18th century. From an initial drapery business opened nearby in 1801, it launched as Guy & Smith Ltd in 1871, and extensively remodelled in 1913. It became part of House of Fraser in 1969, trading as Binns, before further construction works in 1971.
A concession model had been mooted as potential, with a cinema also highlighted after the Riverhead new-build stalled with Freshney owner Capreon putting the centre up for sale.
15:17’s arrival could also provide a lifeline for Caffe Nero and shoe concession Dune, both having operated separately to House of Fraser.
A spokesman for Caffe Nero said: “We are currently assessing our options for the site and will reach a decision as soon as is feasible.”
Dune has yet to respond to enquiries from the initial announcement.
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