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Save Our Stores: Readers’ letters special on plans to close Aberdeen’s John Lewis

John Lewis

News of John Lewis’ plans to close the Aberdeen store has prompted a flood of readers’ letters.

What do you think of the decision to close Aberdeen’s John Lewis? Have your say here pj.letters@ajl.co.uk 

Couldn’t a grace period be granted?

Sir, – When I moved to the north-east of Scotland more than 20 years ago, I was delighted to discover that Aberdeen has a John Lewis. Since then the shop on George Street has been my go-to place for quality clothing, homewares, electricals and much more. The customer service is excellent and staff are friendly, competent and very helpful.

With the end of lockdown in sight I was really looking forward to a real life shopping trip to John Lewis for some much-needed clothing.

Buying clothes online doesn’t do anything for me. I need to see the stuff, feel its quality and try it on – and then enjoy the satisfaction of carrying it home.

Shoppers pictured near John Lewis, Bon Accord Centre.

I’m confident that I’m not alone in this. I also won’t be alone in my disbelief that the last remaining department store in the whole north and north-east of Scotland is going to be taken away from the people who live in the region.

Above all my heart goes out to the 265 staff, and the staff of the seven other John Lewis stores earmarked for closure, who now have to fear for their jobs.

The Aberdeen store was once described as successful. After lockdown ends shoppers, allowed and keen to leave their homes again, will return.

Please, John Lewis Partnership, can you grant your Aberdeen store a grace period until the economy has recovered post-Covid?

Regina Erich, Willow Row, Stonehaven.

‘Devastated’ to lose favourite store

Sir, – I am devastated at the news that John Lewis is to close. It is my favourite shop. They fitted my lovely new kitchen in 2018 and were so efficient. I buy my electricals there and other things.

It will be a huge loss to the city if it closes. Please plead with them to reconsider.

V C Holroyd, Peterculter.

City centre will be ‘unimaginable’

Sir, – I was shocked yesterday to hear about the proposed closing of the Aberdeen branch of John Lewis. It would be a devastating loss to the whole area and to Aberdeen city centre in particular.

I very much appreciate the goods and services they have provided over the years. I was last in the store just before the Boxing Day closure and cannot imagine our city centre without it.

Joyce Plenderleith.

Smaller stores nearby will suffer

Sir, – Whenever I am in town and on George Street I normally visit John Lewis then I might venture to some of the other shops in the area.

The same goes vice versa.

John Lewis in Aberdeen.

If in another shop I normally look into John Lewis too. So what I am saying is that this will have a very big effect on the smaller shops in George Street.

Donald McPherson, Bucksburn.

Council may ‘as well close the city’

Sir, – With the closure of John Lewis, the Aberdeen City Council might just as well close the city! There is no reason for visitors or residents north of the central belt to come here any more.

With the crippling business rates, the council has overseen the demise of the city.

Union Street used to be a lovely street on which to shop, but in the last few years it has deteriorated into an eyesore.

Mary Skelton, Inchmarlo, Banchory.

No replacement for quality of staff

Sir, – I was very disappointed to hear of the intended closure of the John Lewis store in Aberdeen.

I have been a customer of the store over many years and will miss the knowledgeable, helpful and pleasant staff especially in the electrical and domestic appliances departments – this being more of an issue in Aberdeen as there is now little choice of store where you can get such help and shopping online does not allow for gaining the personal knowledge of the staff.

Furthermore with the closure of so many department stores in Aberdeen this would be yet another blow to residents of Aberdeen and the surrounding area.

Jacqueline Henderson.

Opportunity now missed to innovate

Sir, – Like everyone, I was very shocked, saddened and angry at the news that the Aberdeen branch was to close its doors.

The impact of this pandemic has been without doubt catastrophic for so many and extremely challenging to say the least. Aberdeen is a wonderful city but to be deprived of its last department store just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Whilst online sales are booming, and I certainly do a fair share of my shopping in this way, nothing beats the experience of going into a store to actually see the products and there are plenty of people, particularly an older generation who do not use the internet, and their only option is to have the experience of a day out to the shops.

Sheila Petrie and Jackie Wilson reopened John Lewis after lockdown measures eased last year.

There’s no doubt changes need to be made in many of these large department stores and if they are to try and keep up with the demands of online, they need to make it a really enjoyable shopping experience. John Lewis certainly could do with an overhaul, introduce more interesting brands rather than duplicate ones within their store that were already in standalone stores a stone’s throw away.

Their restaurant on the top floor was not the best and did not deliver a high quality of food but could easily replicate the likes of Harvey Nichols, Selfridges or Harrods and introduce branded restaurants into the store, have a champagne/drinks bar in another area, offer Prosecco with a manicure/pedicure, great tea room with cakes and really just offer a similar experience albeit on a much smaller scale.

The question that baffled many people was why Waitrose didn’t go ahead as that would have been a guaranteed success.

Plenty to think about but meantime I sincerely hope that something can be done (although I’m sure all the people in these other cities facing their own closures will be thinking the same) to save our Aberdeen store and the jobs of all their wonderful staff.

Julie Lefevre.

Robbed of chance to support shop

Sir, – Yesterday I learned from your web page the sad news of the closure, which prompted me to email the store to ascertain the facts and to explain my disappointment.

We have been supporters of John Lewis since the 1960s, from my home city of Nottingham and finally to Aberdeen via London and we have, like many in the last 12 months, had to resort to online with the intention of returning to the store once life returns to normal.

The closure of this iconic store in the north-east of Scotland will have an impact on our purchasing as after normality it will not be to John Lewis online but to local retailers we will turn to.

The reason is obvious as many products are best bought by sight and touch, coupled with product knowledge. Electrical products from lighting to freezers, clothing, where returns become a burden when colours and texture don’t meet expectation, crockery, linen, tableware and cosmetics just to name a few.

John Lewis management why did you not give us a chance to return to the store before you axed it?

John Burrows, Pannanich Road, Ballater.

Store at heart of family memories

Sir, – This is first time ever I have written to a newspaper – I cannot begin to express the devastation I feel at the loss of the John Lewis store.

It opened when I was expecting my son and presents for all life’s celebrations, birthdays and Christmas have been purchased there.

My 90-year-old mum died four weeks ago and my last outing with her was to John Lewis so she could buy Christmas gifts and have a cuppa and a scone. Can Aberdeen council not be encouraged to provide financial support to this instead of wooden benches on Union Street?

This will be the nail in the coffin for Aberdeen city centre – please use your social media powers to get all behind this.

Anne Boyd.

Dire directive to promote online

Sir, – For years now shop staff have followed managerial guidelines to inform customers they’d get a better selection of lines online.

Too many times have I been told that and replied they were providing nails for their coffin.

Seems they have followed guidelines so far now that customers are using the internet to shop as instructed – and look at the high street downfall!

Paul Collier, Scott Grove, Belhelvie, Aberdeen.

City leaders should be ‘ashamed’

Sir, – Where are our leaders? Are they hiding hoping that everything will blow over and no one will notice their lack of motivation?

I think so.

They are still employed and receiving a wage. The money generated by John Lewis is pivotal in the economy of the city.

John Lewis will not reopen in Aberdeen

Do they really think by hiding their heads in the sand that no one will notice their lack of leadership?

I don’t think so.

They should be ashamed by their lack of action. Poor, poor aberdeen what a wonderful city it was.

Anne Gibson.

Chance to browse and try on is lost

Sir, – The closure is a disaster. Along with the loss of Debenhams many of us have lost the opportunity to go to shops where, if we are looking for a ‘special’ or just really nice outfit, we had a large range of styles, names and prices to look at, judge the quality of and try on.

As we get older we do not have the confidence of the young to shop online for important items. We want to know we can go into a shop, browse and hopefully come out with what we want.

As well as that we could have a day out in John Lewis with its massive range of goods and food areas.

I cannot believe that there is no longer a single department store in Aberdeen and its greater area. It is so very disappointing.

M A Farquharson.

Lack of investment and rates a factor

Sir, – I completely agree that the loss of John Lewis would be a real death nail to the city centre. We all hear that online shopping has killed the high street but other retailers like Primark are hugely successful without an online presence.

I therefore suggest that it is not the case that people only want to shop online. The city centre of Aberdeen has seen a lack of investment for some time.

It has not been helped by crippling cuts the city council has had to make due to huge underfunding by the Scottish Government. Business rates directly set by the Scottish Government have been an enormous challenge for business and has driven many previously successful businesses from the city.

Karen Shirreffs.

Closure signals the end of city centre

Sir, – This is the only department store left in Aberdeen and to close this is the end of our city centre.

Helen Madigan.

Writing ‘on the wall’ for some time

Sir, – Unfortunately the writing has been on the wall for the John Lewis store in Aberdeen’s George Street long before the pandemic came along.

And like many other people who would like to save this retail store, the reality is that even more people are doing most of their shopping online because it is safer and more convenient and if the footfall vanishes from a retail store it is unlikely to return to the levels of 20 or 30 years ago.

When chain stores such as Debenhams and John Lewis are no longer viable then they just have to accept the reality and close down loss-making stores and compete online with the rest of the sector.

It is a great shame for the hundreds of staff who will lose their jobs at the John Lewis store here in Aberdeen but even with a petition of 11,000+ signatures, including my own, it is unlikely to change the minds of their directors and management staff.

Brian McLeod.

Keep it open to restart retail boom

Sir, – Though I was half expecting John Lewis Aberdeen to stop trading, it seems like the final nail in the coffin for Aberdeen.

I have been a great supporter of the store since its inception being a member of the generation who did the shops every Saturday. Soon it will just be a memory along with E&M’s, Falconer’s, Watt and Grant’s and other noble institutions.

As a place to visit Aberdeen has been in decline since the 1960s due to poor planning and council leadership.

Keeping John Lewis open may just be the start of an upward surge in the retail sector.

Liz Jamieson.

The ‘forgotten’ north misses out

Sir, – The news of the planned closure of the John Lewis Aberdeen store is devastating, not only for Aberdeen but for the whole of the north of Scotland.

It means that there will be no department stores north of the central belt. Yet there will be two John Lewis stores within 50 miles of each other.

John Lewis in Glasgow is staying open

Obviously the company will have committed large sums of money to the new store in Edinburgh but one wonders how much they have looked at the impact of the closure of the Debenhams stores in Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness. It would have left them with a monopoly in the rest of Scotland, the often forgotten part of Scotland, lying outwith the central belt.

The news is very disappointing and I will think hard before shopping with John Lewis online or in their remaining stores.

There are other online options out there. Hopefully they will reconsider.

Jill Miller.

Centre left without any attraction

Sir, – The proposed closure of John Lewis in Aberdeen seems to be the end-game as far as this city is concerned.

From once being a vibrant and busy centre, it has now become a rundown eyesore without any attraction whatsoever, and with the only true department store gone in Aberdeen, the city is slowly dying.

From being a city which is richer now than in the 60s, I cannot understand how successive councils have allowed such deterioration to occur, other than having demanded totally unreasonable monies in rents which clearly is one of the major reasons the city centre is as it is today.

If we are to avoid being reduced to a backwater, the council has to start thinking seriously about how to regenerate a city we can be proud of. And the first step is to persuade John Lewis to stay.

Patricia Karlstad.

A strategy for recovery is needed

Sir, – We now find another major store is pulling out of the city due mainly to lack of support from the community.

It may be hard for some to accept this but if you do not support the local stores then they will not run at a loss just to remain in town.

Over the years Aberdeen has been slowly declining due to lack of investment. The city council lack experience in attracting businesses to the city.They do not have the foresight to develop a strategy for recovery.

Look down south at Newcastle after the demise of the shipyards and coal mining, they turned the local economy around.

I appreciate they have in place projects such as Union Terrace Gardens but this will be another white elephant. The council needs to look around at the conditions in the city.

We are no longer the oil capital of Europe, those days are long gone.

A Riddel, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen.

‘Seeing’ goods is not possible online

Sir, – John Lewis must stay open.

This store has various departments selling items not available in any other store in the city.

If it closes it will also limit our choice for various products such as electronic equipment, technical items, white goods and so on leaving only one other outlet with the monopoly for these items.

These items can be bought online but I personally, like many others, like to see the items I am interested in.

It would be a very sad day and a massive loss to the Aberdeen and surrounding communities.

Helen Stevenson, Westhill, Aberdeenshire.

A rethink on rates could link to profit

Sir, – Aberdeen city centre has been dealt yet another disastrous retail blow with the announcement of the closure of the John Lewis store leaving many retail workers nowlooking for alternative retail work where closures are now sadly frequent.

There is little doubt that online sales are increasing and encouraged by the Covid-19 pandemic but high rents and commercial rates have also taken their toll on major retail stores.

Aberdeen is suffering this ongoing collapse in retail outlets as are all cities in Scotland but there needs to be a complete rethink of how commercial rates in Scotland have escalated to unaffordable levels and what alternatives need to be considered related to profits rather than property values.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Mugiemoss Road, Bucksburn.

Install a Waitrose on ground floor

Sir, – Here is an idea, clear out the ground floor and install a Waitrose. This would increase foot traffic to the store, the men’s and children’s dept could be distributed throughout the remaining floors displacing some of the under performing sections.

George Morrison.

Unite to support P&J and EE campaign

Sir, – Very sad to hear of the John Lewis closure. Glad to hear that you are on the case.

Everyone with any ideas must come up with the best ideas to stop this now.

You are best placed to know who can use their influence. Aberdeen needs to stand united.

We need a big store here in Aberdeen for the people of the city and its surroundings.

Good luck.

Sheila Nicol.

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