Lord Stuart Rose, a Retail supremo and former Marks & Spencer boss, has slammed the plans of Mike Ashley for an “oligopoly” of the UK high street after the latest attempt of the Sports Direct chief to seize control of Debenhams.
Lord Rose said that he would “think twice” about establishing an empire of high street chains amid a seismic transformation in retailing after the rise to fame of online shopping and competition from the likes of Amazon.
He informed the Press Association that the strategy of Mr Ashley risked leaving his empire inflexible in a fast-changing market.
Lord Rose was a former chairman and chief executive of M&S, a retail giant. He stated: “My view in retail is to stay nimble, lean and mean. You need to be able to turn on a sixpence.”
He added: “I wouldn’t want to lock myself into anything that’s not flexible – we’re operating in a fast-moving world.”
His remarks come following the most recent attempt of Mr Ashley to expand his burgeoning empire has hit the rocks, dealing a blow to his reputation as a keen deal-maker.
His effort to snap up Debenhams, the struggling retail chain, ended in embarrassment as the chain was instead placed into administration and the almost 30 percent stake of Mr Ashley was wiped out.
He has also become involved in an attempt to take over Findel, an online retailer and school resource supplier.
The owner of Newcastle United has been on a buying spree over the last year. Most recently, he added Sofa.com, an online player, to his stable, having already acquired struggling chains which includes House of Fraser and Evans Cycles, the bike specialist.
HMV, LK Bennett, and Patisserie Valerie also captured the tycoon’s fancy, however, they ended up in other hands.
Having started off in the sportswear market, his business interests currently span gyms, furniture, and department stores – typically through Sports Direct.
Lord Rose is currently the chairman of a number of firms, including Ocado, an online grocer, and Fat Face and Oasis, both clothing chains. He suggests that Mr Ashley may have had quite a lucky escape with Debenhams, which he stated has “always been behind the curve.”
He noted: “What we’ve still got in most sectors in the UK is too much capacity in terms of bricks and mortar.”
He added: “Unless you’ve got a really strong brand or unique selling point, you’re going to find you’re squeezed. That’s why the Debenhams of this world are struggling, that’s why BHS disappeared.”