HOUSE of Fraser – which operates one of Bournemouth’s three big department stores – is to close branches in an effort to turn around its performance.

The company has said it needs to make “difficult decisions” about underperforming stores.

It has not said which of its 59 branches will close, or how many.

House of Fraser’s Chinese parent company, Nanjing Cenbest, said it was selling a 51 per cent stake in the store group to the Chinese retailer C.banner, whose other stores include London’s famous toy shop Hamleys.

It said the conditional agreement was subject to a restructuring of House of Fraser’s stores.

House of Fraser intends to complete the restructuring under a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) which will mean cutting stores. A formal CVA proposal is expected around the beginning of June and the restructuring is expected to be completed in early 2019.

House of Fraser chairman Frank Slevin said: “C.banner’s acquisition of 51 per cent of House of Fraser, together with the new capital and restructuring, represents a step to securing House of Fraser’s long-term future.”

But he added: “However, we need to go further and faster if we are to confront the seismic shifts in the retail industry.

“There is a need to create a leaner business that better serves the rapidly changing behaviours of a customer base which increasingly shops channel agnostically. House of Fraser’s future will depend on creating the right portfolio of stores that are the right size and in the right location.

“C.banner’s investment is a vote of confidence in our prospects. We also know that if we are to deliver a sustainable, long-term business then we need to make difficult decisions about our underperforming legacy stores.

“I am all too aware that this creates uncertainty for my colleagues in the business and so we will be transparent with them throughout the process. These measures are essential to ensure that House of Fraser remains an iconic department store group for many years to come.”

Earlier this year, Bournemouth University’s senior lecturer in marketing and retail management, Jeff Bray, predicted earlier the town would not be able to support three large department stores for another five years.

House of Fraser hired turnaround specialists KPMG in April to examine restructuring options.

The company suffered weak results for the first three-quarters of 2017, due to “challenging market conditions and company-specific factors”.