Aberdeen community leaders have vowed to do “everything they can” to save John Lewis.
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said the department store giant was unreceptive in talks earlier today, but pledged to “keep up the dialogue” and added he would be writing to Nicola Sturgeon and Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack to ask for support.
He said: “I spoke to John Lewis this afternoon, and they explained the timetable that they’re looking at.
“They’re speaking to their staff, and the consultation starts early in May to run on to the summer.
“It’s clear that their intention is not to open the store again, even while that’s taking place.
“We spoke about whether there’s any help we can give – in terms of their rent, but of course they own the building so that’s not really a factor, and the rates, but they’re not paying rates just now because of the schemes in place to help retail.
“We’re going to keep up the dialogue, we’ve said as a council that if there’s anything we can do to get them to change their mind and reverse this decision, we’d be willing to look at that.
“We’re of the mind that, anything it takes to keep the store open would be considered. But it seems like they’ve made their mind up already.”
- John Lewis reveals plans to shut Aberdeen store – with up to 265 jobs at risk
- ‘Awful news for Aberdeen’: Shoppers react to news John Lewis will not reopen
Aberdeen Inspired to lobby John Lewis
Aberdeen Inspired also pledged to all they can to persuade the retail giant to stay in the city.
Chief Executive Adrian Watson said: “This is devastating news for the city given the nearest John Lewis store will now be more than 100 miles away.
“John Lewis is an iconic, trusted and respected retail brand which employs 265 local people, its loss will be felt widely by both staff and the people of the north-east.
“Aberdeen Inspired is talking with partners to see if there is anything we can do to persuade John Lewis to reconsider this closure and save the Aberdeen store.
“Shoppers are attracted to the city by the presence of John Lewis which in turn supports other city centre businesses.”
The loss of John Lewis has been described as “devastating” by local representatives and shoppers alike.
Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Yuill said: “This is a terrible blow for the people employed by John Lewis and for our city centre. The closure of John Lewis will tear a hole in the heart of Aberdeen.”
George Street councillor Sandra Macdonald said she felt John Lewis had “jumped the gun” and that they would be asking them to reconsider.
She said: “We will be going back to John Lewis to discuss this proposal as I believe there is scope for them to change their minds as they might have jumped the gun a bit early.
“John Lewis creates a buzz about Aberdeen and looking at the demographics where can an older person shop in the city now?
“If the right argument is put to John Lewis and we make a concerted effort to change their mind, it is possible.”
John Lewis an ‘integral’ part of the city
North East MSP Lewis Macdonald is also contacting the senior management at John Lewis to press them to reconsider the closure.
He added: “John Lewis seem to be basing their closure plans on how things looked a year ago, when the downturn in the oil and gas industry hit the Aberdeen economy at the same time as the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The long-awaited North Sea transition deal announced this morning points to a brighter future for the energy sector in Aberdeen, and this proposal by John Lewis to close their Aberdeen store does not reflect the city’s economic outlook in 2021.
“This proposal will be devastating for workers who were looking forward to returning to work after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, and it is also bad news for shoppers in Aberdeen and beyond.
“Closing the Aberdeen store leaves customers across a large area in the north and north east of Scotland without direct access to a John Lewis store or to the Home Delivery and Click and Collect services which many have relied on in the last twelve months.
“John Lewis has been an integral part of the city centre for decades, and an anchor business for the George Street area. Its closure would be a huge blow to regeneration plans for the city centre.”
Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman described the decision as “shoddy” on Twitter.
I know that the local management have fought hard and that the store was actually doing really well compared to other stores. This is a shoddy decision.
— Kirsty Blackman (@KirstySNP) March 24, 2021
And Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central called for a task force to be set up to help rejuvenate George Street.
He added: “This is extremely disappointing news for Aberdeen and my first thoughts are with all the staff who will be impacted by this huge loss.
“George Street used to be a bustling thoroughfare, but it has been neglected for too long – it’s high time the City Centre Masterplan was extended to include the area which is so obviously part of our city centre.
“We need a taskforce set up to include traders, and the council, in order to properly rejuvenate this part of Aberdeen – we used to have a City Centre Traders Association which put a concerted effort into George Street so it’s time to establish something similar.”
George Street councillor Michael Hutchison echoed Mr Stewart’s calls for the street to be added to the city centre masterplan.
He added: “This is going to be devastating for many local businesses, especially those on George Street, as well as the hundreds of staff employed directly at the store.
“John Lewis brought people from across the region to the local area and provided a real boost to nearby businesses, as well as forming part of the gateway into George Street. It will be a huge loss.
“George Street has some amazing and unique businesses but many have been hit hard over the past year. Those businesses and George Street as a whole are going to need support to build back up after this pandemic, now more than ever.”
Bon Accord reaction
Craig Stevenson, Bon Accord Centre manager, added: “John Lewis Aberdeen is a much-loved department store that has sat at the heart of the city centre for over 30 years.
“Retail is a challenging environment; even more so following periods of lockdown. It is unfortunate to see such an iconic store close its doors and we would like to wish the team all the best for the future.
“Bon Accord plans to reopen in line with government guidance and we look forward to welcoming customers back as soon as possible.”