Name: Hugh Fraser
Life dates: 1903-1966
Occupation: 1st Baron Fraser of Allander
Hugh Fraser was born at Glencaple, Partickhill Road, Partick, Lanarkshire, on 15 January 1903, the only son of Hugh Fraser, drapery warehouseman, and Emily Florence née McGown. He was educated at Glasgow Academy and Warriston School, near Moffat in the Scottish Borders. In 1919, he went to work at the family business, Fraser Sons & Co Ltd, after spending a few months learning bookkeeping with the company's auditors. In a short time he became an accomplished window dresser and buyer. In 1924, his father made him managing director when he was only twenty-one. On his father's death in 1927, he became chairman.
In 1936, he defied economic depression by embarking on a policy of expansion. He acquired three stores in Glasgow: Arnott & Co Ltd, Robert Simpson & Sons Ltd and Thomas Muirhead & Co (Glasgow) Ltd. During the Second World War, he acquired Betty Beresford Ltd of Glasgow in 1939, Kings Fashions Ltd of Glasgow and Peter Allan Ltd of Edinburgh in 1940, Gordon & Stanfield of Perth, Muir, Simpsons, Ltd of Glasgow and Alexander Ewing & Co Ltd of Dundee in 1941, and Dallas' Ltd and Dallas's Colosseum Ltd, both of Glasgow, in 1942. During the post-war years, he acquired D & A Prentice (Greenock) Ltd and Logie & Co Ltd of Stirling in 1945, and McLachlan and Brown Ltd of Stirling, and D A Wallace & Co Ltd of Perth, and William Small & Sons Ltd of Edinburgh in 1946. Many other Scottish stores followed, the most important acquisitions coming in 1952 with his purchase of the Scottish Drapery Corporation.
Fraser's business prospered to such an extent that in 1948 he was able to float House of Fraser Ltd as a public company. At the same time, he formed a private company, Scottish and Universal Investments Ltd (SUITS), which was his vehicle for acquisitions other than retail. Fraser's success was due both to his thorough knowledge of the drapery business but also to his practice of purchasing land, then mortgaging the land and buildings on it, in order to finance further developments. He first used this method in 1936 when he mortgaged 14-16 Buchanan Street to meet the cost of its purchase, and he used it frequently thereafter.
Fraser acquired the Binns group of stores in the north east of England in 1953 and made his first inroads into London in 1957, when he acquired the John Barker group. In 1959, he successfully secured control of the Harrods Group of stores.
Fraser was a Glasgow town councillor for eight years from 1938. In 1959, he applied himself to the expansion of the tourist industry in the Scottish Highlands and sat on the Scottish Tourist Board. In addition, House of Fraser Ltd held a one-third stake in Highland Tourist (Cairngorms) Development Ltd, which built the Aviemore Centre. In 1960, in memory of his mother, Fraser created the Hugh Fraser Foundation
On 2 April 1931, he married Kathleen Hutcheon, the youngest daughter of Sir Andrew Jopp Williams Lewis, a Glasgow shipbuilder and former lord provost of Aberdeen. They had a daughter, Ann, and a son, Sir Hugh Fraser, second baronet (1936-1988), who succeeded his father as chairman of House of Fraser and other companies. As well as holding numerous other honours and honorific positions, Fraser was given an honorary LLD by St Andrews University in 1962 and was created a baronet in 1961 and a baron in 1964. He died on 6 November 1966.
Moss, Michael and Turton, Alison, A Legend of Retailing: House of Fraser, London 1989
Knox, T.M., rev. Russell, Iain F., Fraser, Hugh, first Baron Fraser of Allander (1903-1966), department store owner and businessman, 2004-2006
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