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House of Fraser should have positive future in Belfast

THE travails of House of Fraser took a new turn yesterday when Mike Ashley's Sports Direct bought the troubled department store chain for £90 million, in a deal which saves it from going into administration.

The scope of Mr Ashley's plans for House of Fraser are unclear, and though he talks of turning the chain into "the Harrods of the high street", he has not ruled out closures.

When details do emerge, staff and others will be hopeful that they include a positive role for its Belfast store, which occupies a prominent, modern site in Victoria Square.

House of Fraser is not alone in facing difficulties. It has been a bruising period for retailers, with established high street operators such as Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld falling into administration already this year and others reporting challenging prospects.

As consumers, our habits have changed - the rise of the internet shopping being an obvious example - and retailers must, as they have always done, respond accordingly.

But government - both at council and Stormont levels - also has a responsibility to help ensure our high streets and town centres are vibrant and easy places in which to do business; sadly, it is merely another area in which the lack of an executive is letting people down.

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