John Lewis has dropped its plans to open a store on the Boots site at the Clock Tower in Brighton.
The firm – owned by its staff – was unable to make its plans work, it said in a statement this afternoon (Wednesday 3 May).
Instead, Boots will stay put, having signed a new lease on the premises on the corner of Queen’s Road and North Street.
John Lewis said: “We are disappointed to announce that we have decided not to progress our plans to open a John Lewis shop in North Street in Brighton.
“We acquired the site positive that we could build a John Lewis shop but having explored all options we cannot deliver a shop on this site with the extent of demolition and rebuilding required.
“We are pleased to have secured a new lease with Boots, who wished to continue to trade in Brighton, so that the property will remain occupied for the long term.
“We would like to thank local people for their active participation in the consultation of our draft plans as well as Brighton and Hove City Council for its very positive engagement through the planning process despite our decision not to progress our plans.
“John Lewis owns the freehold of the site and will be putting 129-133 Queen’s Road on the market for sale shortly, with all its existing tenants in place. These include Boots, Krispy Kreme and First Choice.”
There are hopes that John Lewis might become an anchor store in Churchill Square if a proposed extension down to the seafront goes ahead. The proposed extension is part of a scheme known as the Waterfront project.
The shopping centre’s owner, Standard Life Investments, was giving nothing away. James Stevens, head of UK development at Standard Life Investments, said: “Alongside Brighton and Hove City Council, we continue to make progress on the Waterfront project.
“While there is still a long way to go, this is unaffected by the decision of John Lewis not to progress with its planned store.
“Brighton continues to be a highly popular retail, conference and leisure destination, and the Waterfront project aims to cement this leading position for the future.”
Council leader Warren Morgan said: “I share the disappointment that Brighton and Hove shoppers will no doubt feel at today’s announcement that John Lewis has decided not to progress with its plans for a new store in our city.
“The council fully supported the proposals for a new store which would have been a fantastic addition to our city centre and our work with John Lewis on the initial scheme has been recognised by the company as positive.”
Councillor Morgan added: “Millions of visitors come to our city every year, all year long, and will continue to come because of the unique and niche shops in the North Laine and The Lanes and the larger chain outlets in Churchill Square.
“From my conversations with local residents I’m sure that John Lewis would have succeeded in the city but I’m also aware that retailers are very uncertain about consumer behaviour.
“Shopping trends are changing and John Lewis – like other retailers – may well be feeling the impact of what they themselves have called a ‘volatile market and profound structural changes’ across the industry.
“We will continue to take forward our regeneration programme for the city centre which will build on current investment and support from the retail industry and which proposes the expansion of Churchill Square as part of the Waterfront redevelopment.
“And of course, there’s the new Ikea coming soon in the city region and the work on the new Hanningtons Lane which is returning the area to its former glory, revealing the historic Puget’s Cottage and opening up a new Lane which will add to our unique retail offer to visitors and residents alike.
“Whatever the national and international conditions, Brighton and Hove is very much open for business.”