House of Fraser to expand into Russia under new Chinese owner

Yuan Yafei, the new owner of House of Fraser
Yuan Yafei, the new owner of House of Fraser
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House of Fraser is to expand into Russia under plans revealed by the Chinese tycoon behind the department store’s recent takeover.

Yuan Yafei, chairman of Sanpower, said he would open four franchise stores in Russia and two in Abu Dhabi over the next two to three years, as well as a flagship “Oriental Fraser” store in Nanjing, where the conglomerate is based, next year.

It has already emerged that the 165-year-old business could nearly double its number of sites by opening up to 50 branches in China over the next few years following the takeover deal, which valued the business at £480m.

Mr Yuan’s comments shed further light on Sanpower’s global ambitions outside its home country, after it said it wanted to exploit what it called the “iconic heritage brand” with a programme of international expansion.

House of Fraser currently has 60 sites in the UK and Ireland. It already has one franchise store in Abu Dhabi, which opened last year.

Mr Yuan said that he planned to inject money into its UK operations to renovate its stores but intended to leave its management team in place, adding: “They are very professional; I trust them and they trust me.”

He said the takeover deal, under which his company - already the owner of a department store business in China - is buying 89 per cent of the chain, would help Sanpower tackle the challenges of ecommerce and increasingly complex global supply chains.

Mr Yuan told the Financial Times: “It has the type of department store management system that the Chinese department stores right now lack, especially its buyer system, house brands and also European supply chains.

“That’s exactly what the Chinese are looking for, greatly lack, and are eager to learn.”

He said he believed China had too many shopping malls, and that he planned to take advantage of their failure over the next few years.

The Sanpower empire spreads across finance, property, media, transport and IT and employs 30,000 people, with assets worth nearly £5bn. House of Fraser has sales of £1.2bn a year.