By  on August 22, 2005

LONDON — U.K. department store chain House of Fraser said it will close its 135-year-old Barkers store on Kensington High Street here in January.

It is the second closure of a high-profile store for the chain, which said in June that its Dickins and Jones flagship on Regent Street will permanently shutter, also in January.

House of Fraser said that unlike the closure of Dickins and Jones, which was due to a steep rise in rent, the chain was closing Barkers because it had found retail traffic was moving away from Kensington High Street. The company said consumers prefer shopping for the designer and higher-priced items the store sells on the more centrally located Oxford and Bond Streets. The company also said it believes a new out-of-town shopping center in nearby White City, due to open in 2007, will further drive retail traffic away from Kensington High Street.

"We continue to review our portfolio of stores," said John Coleman, chief executive of House of Fraser, in a statement, "in some cases taking the difficult decision to close those which do not fit with our mid- to long-term strategy."

House of Fraser said that no further store closures are planned and that the shutting of Barkers does not represent a move out of central London, highlighting the company's recent opening of a store in London's financial district and the refurbishment of its Army and Navy store in Victoria, which has been renamed as simply House of Fraser.

The company said in the statement that although the surrender and sale of the leases on the Barkers store will generate a positive cash benefit of approximately $719,000, the exit costs of the transaction will produce an overall exceptional loss for the company. The 87,000-square-foot retail site Barkers currently occupies is to be leased to two companies: Associated Newspapers, publishers of U.K. newspapers The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, will occupy the second floor of the building (the company already occupies the remaining upper floors), and the three lower floors will be occupied by Whole Foods Market, the U.S. company that currently operates the Fresh and Wild chain in the U.K.

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