Express & Star

Gavin Williamson: Secure the future of Wolverhampton Beatties

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has criticised House of Fraser for failing to invest in Beatties as he urged bosses to safeguard the future of the under threat store.

The iconic Beatties store in Wolverhampton, which is under threat of closure as owners House of Fraser look to make savings

The iconic Wolverhampton store is hanging in the balance after the Chinese owner of House of Fraser – which has owned Beatties since 2005 – announced it will close stores this year as part of a major restructuring deal.

South Staffordshire MP Mr Williamson said under-investment by House of Fraser represented a ‘missed opportunity’ for the department store chain, especially when it comes to Wolverhampton’s Beatties.

He says he has written to bosses asking for reassurances over their commitment to Beatties, and also how they plan to make the business thrive in future.

Mr Williamson, who is the Government’s Defence Secretary, said: “Not only is Beatties such a landmak store, but it is also an important economic draw for the city of Wolverhampton.

“This is more than just a shop it is the beating heart of the city centre and I will be writing to the chief executive asking for reassurances that the store is going to be continuing.

Gavin Williamson is the MP for South Staffordshire

“Actually what we should be looking at is how House of Fraser can start investing in the store and investing in the future of Wolverhampton.

“It has got such amazing potential, but the real tragedy is that House of Fraser hasn’t been as committed in terms of investment in the store, which means the place has not received the same levels of investment as it did when it was a very proud independent store.

“Generations of people in and around Wolverhampton cherish Beatties and hold it close to their hearts and want to see it thrive.

“House of Fraser needs to show commitment to Beatties first and foremost, and then start looking at looking at how they can take this amazing building and amazing brand forward. At the moment it is a missed opportunity for House of Fraser because there is such a wealth of goodwill towards Beatties from the city and the surrounding areas.

“I want to see their vision for how they plan to make the most of the store.”

Concerns for Beatties have grown after Calvetron, the owner of fashion retailar Jacques Vert, went into administration, putting more than a thousand jobs at risk.

Jacques Vert has a store in the city centre department store.

Administrators at Duff & Phelps will now commence selling off the retailer’s stock while simultaneously looking for a buyer for the business.

Calvetron acquired Jacques Vert and a host of other retail brands in a pre-pack administration last year.

The business trades from concessions in Debenhams, House of Fraser, M&Co and some independent retailers.

Calvetron’s brands include Precis, Eastex and Dash.

It has 997 employees in the UK, 155 in Ireland and 256 in Canada.

The landmark Beatties in Wolverhampton city centre was opened in 1887 by James Beattie and became the cornerstone of a 12-strong department store empire.

At its height in the 1980s and 1990s, the Wolverhampton store alone employed more than 800 people.

Last week it was reported by the Express & Star that current and former members of staff at the department store have been left fearing for their pensions since the administration was announced.

Former worker Matthew Rea, from the Friends of Beatties Group, said: “No-one knows exactly what is going to happen.”

House of Fraser is not saying yet how may stores will close, or which ones are in the firing line, but the process is due to start from June.

It is part of a major restructuring deal that will see House of Fraser’s Chinese owner Nanjing Cenbest sell a controlling stake to another Chinese group, Hamleys toy store owners C.banner, for £70 million.