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Express & Star comment: Future of Beatties in the balance

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

As the clock ticks on the House of Fraser takeover saga, fears are starting to grow for the future of Beatties.

Mike Ashley has ambitious plans for House of Fraser, but it is still not known if they include Beatties in Wolverhampton (top right)

Last week, sources close to Mike Ashley suggested a decision was imminent, and it appeared that the store’s new owner was leaning towards keeping it open.

Yet while other stores around the country are celebrating their survival and are looking towards a bright future, Beatties remains in a state of limbo.

It appears that a wrangle between House of Fraser and the building’s landlord is proving to be a sticking point.

Mr Ashley, in his usual forthright style, has wasted no time in calling out what he calls ‘greedy landlords’ for putting their own finances ahead of saving jobs and keeping stores open.

He has warned that although efforts are being made to convince landlords to agree to his terms, time is running out. This means that some stores will have to close.

There is little doubt that a degree of brinkmanship is at play from both sides here.

But in the case of Beatties, it is hoped that such tactics do not inadvertently lead to the death of the iconic store.

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Naturally, the Express & Star wants Beatties to thrive as a premier shopping destination for decades to come. A successful Beatties can have a hugely positive impact on the city and the wider region.

However, we fully understand the pressures on the building’s Danish owners, who will have taken on the site with the expectation of a guaranteed income in return.

It is entirely possible that the rents Mr Ashley is demanding are lower than they would have expected.

The question now is who will blink first?

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We sincerely hope that a compromise can be reached soon, resulting in positive news for everyone concerned.

Surely it is better for the landlords to have a big name store paying rent on their site, rather than an empty white elephant?

The concern from their point of view is that in a worst case scenario, the building could remain empty for years.

There would be no winners from such an outcome. House of Fraser, the landlords, and the city would all suffer.

We just hope that common sense – and indeed business sense – will prevail.

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