Mike Ashley behind closure of Liverpool fashion store

Another Liverpool clothes store to close its doors as retail tycoon Mike Ashley’s Fraser’s Group tightens its grip on high-end fashion retailing on the UK high street. Tony McDonough reports

Tessuti in Paradise Street in Liverpool ONE is to close down after less than two years


High-end fashion outlet Tessuti is to close its 22,000 sq ft store in Liverpool ONE less than two years after it opened.

Tessuti first opened in Liverpool ONE in 2013 with a small store in Peter’s Lane. In August 2022 it relocated to the much bigger outlet in Paradise Street offering a range of designer collections and streetwear.

Now it has launched a closing down sale offering discounts of up to 70%. It is tempting to think Tessuti is another victim of the battle between bricks and mortar retail and the growing e-commerce sector. 

However, that is unlikely to be the case here. Tessuti is one of multiple brands owned by Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group. And the closure is much more likely to be a strategic move by the Sports Direct tycoon to tighten his grip on high-end fashion retail in the UK high street.

In December 2022 his Frasers Group swooped to acquire a job lot of 15 brands owned by high street rival JD Sports in a deal worth £47.5m. Tessuti was among those brands as was iconic Liverpool fashion retailer Cricket Fashion and Kids Cavern.

In March this year Frasers placed Kids Cavern into administration. It was founded in 1989 by husband and wife Danny and Tracey Shelvey. It was based in Cavern Walks until 2018 when it moved to Metquarter and is now shut down.

Cricket Fashion, founded by Liverpool couple Justine Mills and Gerard Mannix in 1991, also relocated to Metquarter in 2018. In 2019 the pair sold their majority stake in the business to JD Sports.

Although Cricket, with Justine and Gerard still involved, continues to thrive at Metquarter Frasers did put the block on a proposed relocation to Liverpool ONE, a move announced with great fanfare in December 2022. 

Rob Deacon, senior asset manager at Liverpool ONE operator Grosvenor, said: “Cricket is the perfect addition to Liverpool ONE as part of our strategy to build our premium offer.

However, the relocation never happened. In an interview with LBN earlier this year Liverpool ONE estate director Iain Finlayson revealed it was the close proximity to another high-end fashion outlet, Flannels, that ultimately scuppered the move.

Flannels is another premium brand owned by Mr Ashley’s Frasers Group. It now has a prominent outlet in the former Owen Owen department store building in Clayton Square… and Cricket, it seems, would have been a little too close for comfort.

“The deal for Cricket to move into Liverpool ONE was done and dusted but then Frasers bought Cricket and a number of other brands from JD,” said Iain.

“That changed the game overnight because Frasers owned Flannels which is just outside Liverpool ONE, and that would have been a rival. So they said ‘we are going to step back from that’. That was a bit of a blow for us.”

Speaking to LBN on Thursday about Tessuti, Iain said: “We’ve known about Tessuti’s forthcoming closure for up to a year.

”Shortly after opening, Tessuti was acquired by the Frasers Group, owner of Sports Direct. Since that acquisition, many of the Tessuti stores across the UK have closed or rebranded as Flannels.

”Clearly, Flannels already has a home in the city, therefore the decision was taken to close the Paradise Street store.”


Cricket in Metquarter in Liverpool. Picture by Tony McDonough
Mike Ashley
Retail tycoon Mike Ashley, majority shareholder of Frasers Group


In June 2023, UK fashion media outlet, The Industry Fashion, ran an article on its website with the title “Is Flannels ‘strangling’ the UK’s premium fashion sector?”.

Article author Eric Musgrave wrote that a number of retail experts believe “Frasers Group’s domination of the UK’s premium fashion sector will decimate independent retailers”.

The article added: “The power of Mike Ashley’s Flannels chain in particular will suffocate small boutiques, strangle smaller suppliers’ route to market, and limit customers’ choices.

“Even the reputation of well-known brands in Flannels is at risk because of Ashley’s tendency to discount prices.”

Mr Ashley’s influence on Liverpool’s city centre retail sector is to strengthen following the Frasers Group acquisition of Compton House, the building in Church Street that was the long-time home of Marks & Spencer until its move to Liverpool ONE in summer 2023.

Compton House, once a high-end hotel favoured by American tourists, will soon be home to a Sports Direct store and health club and will significantly increase Mr Ashley’s footprint in the city.

LBN has contacted Frasers Group for comment.

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