THE landlords for two of Bournemouth’s three major department stores have put them on the market, a meeting heard.

The future of the House of Fraser and Debenhams chains nationally has been in doubt, with both suffering falling trade.

Tony Brown, chief executive at rival Beales, told guests at a Daily Echo breakfast event that no one knew whether either shop’s Bournemouth branch would still be there in 18 months.

“We don’t know whether House of Fraser is going to be there much longer. They’re carrying on because they give zero rent to the landlords,” he said.

“House of Fraser and Debenhams are being sold by the landlords.”

His remarks came as part of an appeal for the town to get better at retaining the visitors it attracted.

Bournemouth’s House of Fraser was earmarked for closure this year under a rescue plan proposed by its previous ownership.

But the company later went into administration and was bought by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, who declared his intention to save as many stores as possible. There has been no announcement about the future of the Bournemouth branch.

A spokesperson for the landlord, M&G Real Estate, said it was working with the retail chain’s new owners “to keep the store open whilst the new owners determine their longer-term strategy for this particular store”.

Debenhams has faced months of uncertainty, with net debts of £286million and disappointing sales figures.

But this week it secured a £40m lifeline from its lenders as it sought a broader re-financing deal.

As well as owning House of Fraser, Mike Ashley owns a 29 per cent stake in Debenhams – close to the figure which would require him to mount a formal takeover bid.

The Debenhams store has been a part of Bournemouth’s shopping scene since it opened as Bobby & Co in 1915. House of Fraser began life as Bright’s in 1871 and expanded in the following decades before being bought by Dingles.

Bournemouth lost another major retailer when Marks and Spencer pulled out of its Commercial Road site last year.