IT was once a titan of the high street, springing from humble roots in Scotland to become one of Britain’s most recognisable brands .

But now it appears that House of Fraser’s best days are behind it following an announcement that it is to close more than half of its stores, including its Edinburgh shop on Princes Street and its Oxford Street store in London, with the loss of 6,000 jobs UK-wide.

The chain said the planned closures are vital to secure the future of the brand, which began life in Glasgow in 1849.

And while House of Fraser has endured turbulent times in the past, experts say the threat of administration is still looming if the rescue plan does not succeed.

The chain is one of a number of former giants of the high street which have struggled to cope with changing consumer habits, the rise of the internet and the high cost of running “bricks and mortar” stores.

The decision to shut stores comes as part of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – a controversial insolvency procedure in vogue among struggling retailers. If the CVA is approved by landlords, it will affect up to 2,000 House of Fraser staff and a further 4,000 across brands and concessions.

The group said it also has plans to relocate its Baker Street head office and the Granite House office in Glasgow to help slash costs and “secure House of Fraser’s future”, although its flagship Buchanan Street shop will stay open.

Frank Slevin, chairman of House of Fraser, said: “Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.

“So whilst closing stores is a very difficult decision, especially given the length of relationship House of Fraser has with all its locations, there should be no doubt that it is absolutely necessary if we are to continue to trade and be competitive.”

House of Fraser is one of the oldest chains in the UK, with a history stretching back almost 200 years to a single shop in Glasgow.

It began life when James Arthur and Hugh Fraser opened a drapery and haberdashery business on the corner of Buchanan Street which would eventually move into the lavish building which occupies the site today.

But it was under Hugh Fraser’s grandson, Hugh Fraser III, that the chain really took off. Inheriting the business at the age of 21, Hugh, later Lord Fraser of Allander, began expanding by buying regional store groups Arnott & Co and Robert Simpson & Sons.

On his death in 1966, his son, also called Hugh, continued growing the business beyond its humble roots, buying out more than 50 companies.

However, his time in charge came to an end in the 1970s when he was engulfed by an insider trading scandal, said to have been fuelled by his gambling addiction.

House of Fraser then passed through several hands, and now Hamleys owner, the Chinese firm C.banner, is being lined up to buy a 51 per cent stake in House of Fraser and invest £70 million into what remains of the business.

But its cash injection is pledged only on the condition the retailer can agree the CVA restructuring.

Will Wright, a restructuring partner at KPMG, which is handling the CVA, warned of dire consequences if that does not go ahead.

He said: “The business has been impacted by the mounting pressures facing the UK high street, with the declining profitability of certain stores exacerbated by costly legacy leases which were originally negotiated many years ago. With trading conditions unlikely to materially improve in the short term, the future of House of Fraser is at significant risk unless steps to restructure the business both financially and operationally are taken.”

Leigh Sparks, Deputy Principal and Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, said that House of Fraser was one of a number of chains struggling to stay relevant in the modern age.

He said: “There are other department stores which have gone by the wayside and it is a format which is not as popular with customers as it used to be.

“Many of the products department stores sell can now be found in other shops on the high street for online for cheaper, and they are just not the draw they used to be.

“There are flagship department stores, such as Harrods and Selfridges, where the footfall is still enough to sustain them but House of Fraser is not in that bracket.”

David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, added: “This is further evidence of how the retail industry is going through a period of profound transformation driven by changes in shopping habits, weak growth in wages, and rising public policy induced costs. This is upending many retail business models, and that can be painful for the firms involved and for their staff.

“The industry is in the midst of a hugely challenging period and retailers are adapting and trying to reinvent themselves. What is clear is that the retail industry will look very different in the future. This will have implications for public policy, particularly for employment prospects in communities more reliant on retail jobs, for our town centres and for future revenues from taxes on property.”