A John Lewis customer has accused the brand of “cutting off” the north-east by shutting its only shop not in the central belt.
Customers with Christmas returns to make have been told they can still do so in-store – which would mean a six-hour round trip to Edinburgh or Glasgow if plans to shut Aberdeen’s John Lewis go ahead.
The chain is offering a postal service for those who cannot access stores, where they will arrange for the return to be made by post or courier.
However, one loyal customer claimed she felt let down – and warned the system did not meet the needs of elderly people not comfortable with online transactions.
Six hour journey
The woman, who lives about 40 miles north of Aberdeen, criticised John Lewis for their failure to take care of all the loyal customers in the north-east.
She said: “Lots of people have been waiting to make returns in April but now will be unable to do that in-store.
“I phoned them up and asked them what is happening with returns and they said you can do it at our nearest store, which is a six-hour return journey which is ridiculous.
“Why should the consumer have to go such lengths for returns when they have forced our hand that way and not reopen?
“They also said there was an online option but for a lot of elderly people that does not work because they do not have the capacity for that.
“We used to come into Aberdeen for shopping but it feels like John Lewis has virtually cut us off, and there are a lot of customers from outside Aberdeen who are angry at this.”
Impact on the elderly
Elderly people could be hit hardest by the closure of John Lewis, with some unable or unwilling to use online shopping services.
This means they could miss out on a journey into Aberdeen town centre.
President of the Grampian Senior Citizens Forum George Thomson said it was “disappointing”.
He said: “It is disappointing news and I think something needs done to help shops reopen.
“My daughter does my shopping for me so I don’t have to leave the house but not everyone is going to have that.
“It is much more difficult for those who can’t do online shopping or have nobody to shop for them.
“The best thing about John Lewis was it was big and open and comfortable for all to move about in.”
‘City centres have such an important role’
Brian Sloane, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “The closure of John Lewis will be a great shock to staff and is of great disappointment to customers in the north-east.
“The impact it will have on the local economy and shape of the city centre, particularly when brought together with other recent such as Debenhams is significant.
“Those who rely on and enjoy shopping in person do tend to be older and can form an important part of their daily lives.
“Beyond their retail purpose, these flagship shops have often also been a great hub for people to meet others to socialise, reduce levels of loneliness, and are a magnet for other shops and amenities.
“Town and city centres have such an important role in bringing people together and while the events over the last year have been destructive to all parts of life, we must ensure that they thrive as part of our recovery.
“That will be vital for residents, communities and the economy.”
A John Lewis spokeswoman said: “There are a few different options for our customers.
“So they can either return a purchase to any of our John Lewis shops once they reopen following government guidance and all they would need to do is bring items to the till and make sure they have proof of purchase and the original payment method.
“If unable to visit one of our John Lewis shops when they reopen then please contact our customer services team and we can arrange for the return to be made by post or courier.
“Please note that refunds will take up to 14 days depending on when customers send the goods to us.”