Billionaire tycoon Mike Ashley is set on a path to dominate the UK high street, following a spending spree in 2018 that saw him snap up some of Britain’s largest high street chains, including House of Fraser for £90m in August and Evans Cycles for £8m in October.
Such deals increased the size of Ashley’s retail portfolio to almost 30m square foot, rising from 22m sq ft at the beginning of 2018, according to new figures from global real estate adviser Colliers International, and now he’s going after HMV and Sofa.com [following the publication of this story it emerged that Ashley had been successful in his bid to buy Sofa.com, for what was believed to be a nominal sum] – which has concessions in eight House of Fraser stores.
The new research from Colliers also raised the prospect that, should the Sports Direct and Newcastle United owner acquire HMV, he would have a significant stake in more than 1,250 stores covering 30.6m sq ft, the equivalent of nearly 400 football pitches, 37 Buckingham Palaces, 16.5 Westfield White City shopping centres or two Hyde Parks.
Paul Souber, co-head of UK retail at Colliers International, said: “Mike Ashley’s actions may look counter-intuitive to what’s going on in today’s retail marketplace, but he’s playing a clever, considered game.
“By investing in heritage brands and cherry-picking their best stores without taking on any of their debt, and then negotiating hard with landlords to broker agreements on his own terms, he’s advantageously strengthening his presence across the UK shopping scene.”
“Ashley’s a real believer in the high street, and clearly adheres to Rothschild’s maxim: ‘the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets’.”
Paul Souber, Colliers International
There are currently 656 shops in the UK totalling circa 13,487,720 sq ft which are controlled by Ashley. These include House of Fraser, Sports Direct, Evans Cycles, Flannels, Agent Provocateur and Lillywhites.
In addition, Ashley also holds stakes in Debenhams (29%), French Connection (27%) and Game (25%), which totals 474 UK shops spanning some 16,344,745 sq ft.
Souber added: “The cost of what he’s doing is not inconsiderable, but the payback could be stellar once the relationship between online and physical retailing reaches a point of equilibrium in the next few years. Ashley’s a real believer in the high street, and clearly adheres to Rothschild’s maxim: ‘the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets’.”
Graphics copyright: TheIndustry.fashion, using data provided by Colliers International