I simply love August. Clients on holiday, long lunches, shopping, disappearances from the office for fictitious meetings. Being child-free, I always holiday in July or September.
Rousing me from my state of languor, Mike Ashley talks about transforming House of Fraser into ‘the Harrods of the high street’.
“Didn’t he say he was going to make Sports Direct the ‘Selfridges of sport’?” I chuckle to my colleague Hugo. I look up a list of House of Fraser stores. “Do you think the people of Altrincham, Carlisle, Grimsby, Middlesbrough and Cwmbran are ready for a Harrods store?” I add.
Actually, August isn’t a total doss. Listed propcos with June half-year ends announce their results in August. That means endless toing and froing of chairman’s statements and investment managers’ reports.
One of my listed clients is feeling a tad apprehensive. He owns three House of Frasers. On the plus side, the business has been bought out of administration. On the minus side, he’s dreading a visit from CBRE, Mike Ashley’s adviser, asking for all sorts of nasties – lower rent, shorter lease, capex on the stores. What’s happened to the days when you could get in HoF as a tenant, wait five years to whack up its rent at review, then flog the store to an institution, he moans to me.
In PR terms I tell him we should go down the “looking forward to working with” line for HoF. A complete pack of lies, of course. Retailers these days hold all the aces, the landlords have the scabby queen.