Edinburgh’s Jenners department store is closing its landmark site on Princes Street after 183 years with the loss of 200 jobs.
Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which operates Jenners as part of its House of Fraser department store chain, said the store would close on 3 May after it had been unable to reach an agreement with the site’s owner on the extension of a tenancy deal.
The Danish fashion billionaire and major Scottish landowner Anders Holch Povlsen, who bought the Jenners building for a reported £50m in 2017, is set to restore and renovate it under plans to turn more than half of the site into a hotel.
The owner said in 2019 that a department store was “a vital future part of the project”, which includes restoring the building’s Victorian facade and three-storey central atrium, as well as adding cafes and restaurants.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for AAA United, the Povlsen-backed company that owns the Jenners site, said Frasers had decided to quit the building despite being offered rent-free periods during all the high street lockdowns as well as rent deferrals and payment plans. It said it was in talks with other retailers about operating a department store there, although the store would not be able to trade as Jenners because House of Fraser owns the trading rights.
Anders Krogh Vogdrup, director of AAA United, said that plans to redevelop the building were currently “on hold due to the current economic climate”.
He added: “Jenners is a much-loved Edinburgh institution. It is our aspiration to recapture its former glory; and that this building will continue to be home to the city’s anchor department store.”
Department stores have come under serious pressure, with Debenhams about to permanently shut all its 124 remaining outlets, Beales closing all its stores after falling into administration, and John Lewis closing eight stores last year.
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Sports Direct bought House of Fraser out of administration in August 2018. Since then, at least 14 of the group’s original 59 stores have closed, including Frasers on Princes Street in Edinburgh and stores in Exeter, Shrewsbury and Cirencester.
A spokesperson for Frasers, which owns Sports Direct, Evans Cycles, Jack Wills and Flannels as well as House of Fraser, said regarding Jenners: “Despite the global pandemic, numerous lockdowns and the turbulence caused for British retail, the landlord hasn’t been able to work mutually on a fair agreement, therefore, resulting in the loss of 200 jobs and a vacant site for the foreseeable future with no immediate plans.
“Our commitment to our Frasers strategy remains but landlords and retailers need to work together in a fair manner, especially when all stores are closed.”