THE new owner of House of Fraser has said he will try to keep open as many stores as possible, offering a glimmer of hope for its Bournemouth shop.

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct paid £90million to buy the business out of administration, hours after the department store chain’s collapse.

House of Fraser’s Bournemouth branch was due to close next year under previous rescue plans with another investor, which has since pulled out.

In a stock market announcement, Sports Direct said it had acquired all 59 House of Fraser stores, the brand and all the stock.

Some 17,000 staff have been informed that they will be transferred over from House of Fraser to Sports Direct.

However, doubt remains over the long-term future of jobs and whether Mr Ashley will shut underperforming stores as part of a restructuring.

The billionaire, who also owns Newcastle United, said Sports Direct would “do our best to keep as many stores open as possible”.

In the same breath, he said: “My ambition is to transform House of Fraser into the Harrods of the high street.”

Mr Ashley’s deal was struck through a pre-pack administration process, where a company is put into administration before a new buyer cherry-picks the best assets.

House of Fraser’s Bournemouth branch can trace its history to 1871, when Frederick Bright opened a shop selling needlework and wool at the Arcade.

Bright’s of Bournemouth expanded into neighbouring shops and was later bought by Dingles, which in turn became a division of House of Fraser. The Dingles name disappeared in 2006.

In recent years, House of Fraser – largely owned by Chinese group Sanpower –racked up £390million in debts.

Shoppers on Bournemouth’s Christchurch Road yesterday said House of Fraser had fallen victim to the internet.

Graham Ross, 53, visiting from Newcastle, said: “It’s a good store but its fallen foul of people shopping on the internet. It would be sad to see it go”.

Rodney Rey, 70, of Mudeford, said: “You look in all the high-street and all you see is coffee shops. All the retail is now online. I am not surprised really.”

Laura Murray, 39, said: “We are from Cambridge and we haven’t got one, but it’s usually a quite expensive shop.”

She said she loved “a bit of Primani” – the jokey reference used by lovers of budget clothing chain Primark.