A north-east retail academic has described has the departure of John Lewis from Aberdeen as a “body blow” for other city centre businesses.
Andrew Turnbull, a senior lecturer in retail and marketing at Robert Gordon University, said the loss of the department store could act as a “drain” on footfall for other traders in and around the George Street area of the city – and suggested bosses may worry that large retail spaces have “gone out of fashion”.
He said: “I think it’s a body blow. There’s no doubt that John Lewis is a flagship store in all the cities that are losing one.
“The other shops around George Street are going to be feeling the pain because John Lewis draws people in the shop at the flagship store and the smaller outlets benefit as a result.
“Without that footfall, these independent retailers are going to feel the drought from the absence of people shopping there.”
However, Mr Turnbull also said he thinks that there will be a “bounce-back” following the end of the Covid-19 lockdown and suggested some larger retail firms may regret the decision to shut larger stores.
“People like the social experience of shopping where they are able to try on clothing and be among their friends – especially among a certain age group”, the academic said.
“There are positives associated with the real experience and there will be a bounce-back for the city centre and I wonder whether a few stores may reopen with a view to capitalising on that, before thinking about their longer-term future.
“John Lewis have done very nicely from their online business, but just nowhere near enough to compensate for the losses from the store sites and they are looking to make savings.”