Department store business John Lewis has bought the premises occupied by Boots by the Clock Tower on the corner of Queen’s Road and North Street in Brighton.
The John Lewis Partnership said: “We can confirm that John Lewis plc is now the owner of 129-133 North Street in Brighton.
“This will not impact the current tenants and the businesses will continue to trade as normal for the foreseeable future.
“We do have an ambition to eventually have a presence in Brighton but plans for this are a considerable way off.”
Tony Mernagh, executive director of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said: “Brighton, like many places, has had an unrequited love affair with John Lewis for decades.
“It was rumoured that when Churchill Square was redeveloped in the late 1990s they were offered cash and a substantial rent-free period to become the anchor store in the shopping mall.
“Whether or not it is true is moot and we ended up with a rather lacklustre Debenhams that relocated from an almost-derelict store at the far end of Western Road opposite Waitrose.
On the Economic Partnership website he wrote: “The John Lewis group has already demonstrated its confidence in the city with its takeover of the Co-op superstore in Hove – a deal that is rumoured to have already increased house prices in the area by 10 per cent to 15 per cent.
“But the purchase of the ageing North Street store is a deal of a different colour.
“With only one small store in Western Road, Waitrose has been missing out on the increasing affluence of the city for a long time and the Co-op purchase was a no-brainer, especially since it is one of the larger supermarket premises in Brighton and Hove.
“But North Street, literally in the heart of the city, raises many questions despite the statement by a spokesperson for John Lewis trying to quell expectations.
“It may be that Boots will remain at the top of North Street well into the next decade but John Lewis clearly has plans for Brighton.
“Where do the company’s plans fit into the much-vaunted redevelopment proposals for Churchill Square which have recently been resurrected from their post-recession slumber?
“With ambitions to almost double the size of Churchill Square by extending it down to the sea, the obvious place for a major, prestige department store would be in the new shopping mall together with other anchor tenants, eg, Marks & Spencer relocating from its current site in Western Road.
“Do John Lewis intend to radically re-engineer the Boots store to make it a decent size and become a department store or occupy it like it is with a John Lewis Home format?
“Or is the purchase a forward-thinking bargaining chip to get the best deal out of any revamped Churchill Square?
“Time will tell and, for the moment, time is on John Lewis’s side but in any event it is a great expression of confidence in Brighton and Hove.”
News of the Boots store purchase came as John Lewis staff, including those working for Waitrose, learnt that their annual bonus would equal 11 per cent of their salary.