City leaders have voiced their “bitter disappointment” after retail giant John Lewis confirmed it will not reopen its store in Aberdeen.
Earlier this year the partnership announced its intention to close its flagship store on George Street, with the loss of nearly 300 jobs.
A taskforce, consisting of council leaders and business chiefs, was set up in a bid to encourage the retailer’s executives to rethink their decision.
However, earlier today the chain confirmed it would press ahead with its plans to pull out of the Granite City – meaning the north-east’s last remaining department store will not reopen.
‘New age for retail’
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart described the announcement as “bitterly disappointing” and added: “We are in a new age for retail where online dominates and we need to work within that reality.
“Now is the time for a proper analysis to be done of our city centre and for the council to implement changes based on that analysis – no gimmicks or distractions, just proper, solid work, involving everyone, to return our city centre to its former glory.
“For a start, take a walk through our main thoroughfare, Union Street, and you will see buildings overgrown with weeds and once glittering granite caked with dirt – simple work to change that would make such a difference and could be done swiftly.”
The bid to save John Lewis was supported by the Press and Journal and Evening Express, while petitions calling for the decision to be reversed gathered tens of thousands of signatures.
‘Domino effect’ fears after closure
Former Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden, now a Conservative MSP for the north-east region, warned the closure could lead to a “domino effect”.
“This confirmation from John Lewis is a bitter pill to swallow after all of the efforts from the people of Aberdeen to keep it open,” he said.
“Everyone involved in the taskforce, as well as various petitions and campaigns supported by the likes of the Press and Journal and Evening Express, did everything to try and prevent the store from closing.
“It’s a huge blow to both George Street and Aberdeen city centre to lose such an iconic shop and we can’t allow a domino effect to now happen on our high streets.
“I will continue to liaise with John Lewis regarding the building which mustn’t be allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.
“A site like this needs to be occupied again sooner rather than later to allow Aberdeen to bounce back and thrive as an attractive shopping destination.
“My sympathies go to all the staff who have been placed in this situation through no fault of their own.”
Bid to keep presence in city
Aberdeen Inspired chief executive Adrian Watson said the organisation would continue to look at options to keep John Lewis in the city in some form.
“This is a very disappointing outcome if not unexpected and the impact will be felt widely by both staff and customers,” he said.
“Aberdeen does of course still have a vibrant retail offering and we will continue to work with organisations in the city to explore alternative options for a John Lewis Partnership presence and look to attract other retailers to the city.
“Aberdeen city centre needs to deliver a refreshed vision through the city centre masterplan to meet the challenges and opportunities of this modern age.”
Store has served city ‘with pride and love’
Jamie Wishart, the head of branch for Aberdeen, said: “For the past 31 years, generations of partners have served Aberdeen and the surrounding communities with pride and love.
“It is therefore with immense sadness that our time here has come to an end. I would like to thank our customers for their loyalty and for the outpouring of support we have received in these past few months – it’s been both heart warming and uplifting.
“Our partners throughout the years have also been a credit to our partnership and to our shop – they have made a difference to customers every day and they will continue to be supported over the coming months.
“Aberdeen is a special place and I wish the city every success in the future.”