A week on the high street

31st March

March 31, 2021

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John Lewis announced last week that it will not reopen eight stores; four department stores in Peterborough, Sheffield, York, Aberdeen, and four of its ‘At Home’ facias in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells. The move was made after research commissioned by the brand concluded that there was not enough customers to sustain a large store in these areas. The retailer plans to roll out smaller concepts within Waitrose stores and increase its click and collect channels. The closures will result in 1,465 jobs being put at risk. In a statement the brand said: “Having fewer bigger stores allows us to invest significantly to improve our remaining ones, showcasing our inspiring products with more space dedicated to experiences and services.”

Camera and photography retailer Jessops has fallen into administration for the second time in just over a year after struggling with the challenging trading conditions over the course of the pandemic. The retailer only operates from 17 stores currently, after a rationalisation program in 2019 resulted in closures. The flagship stores on Oxford Street and in Birmingham will reopen after restrictions are lifted and the website will continue to trade.


Shops will be permitted to trade until 10pm once restrictions are lifted to help ease pressure on public transport and help shops facilitate social distancing in stores. Under the temporary measures, shops will also be able to open at 7am. It is hoped the move will facilitate recovery for retailers who have been forced to remain closed for months. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said in a statement: “To support businesses to reopen and recover, I’ve extended measures to allow shops to stay open for longer. This is part of a package of support to help reopen our shops and high streets safely, backed by £56m…This will provide a much-needed boost for many businesses – protecting jobs, reducing pressure on public transport and supporting people and communities to continue to visit their high streets safely and shop locally.”




Brighton Pier Group has closed three of its bars after the pandemic and associated restrictions took a toll on the health of the businesses. Last year the company closed Smash in Wimbledon, PoNaNa in Bath and didn’t renew a lease for Cambridge-based Fez.


Track and Trace will return for hospitality businesses who will be asked to refuse entry to any customers that refuse to check in. All guests will be required to check in, a change on last year where only one member of each party was required to register their details. An official announcement is expected on the 5th April at the next COVID-19 briefing from the government.


JD Wetherspoon is to invest millions in a move which will see new pub venues developed and a major upgrade of many existing sites over the next decade. The brand plans to open 18 new pubs in the first year, with 15 then opening each year after that. Founder Tim Martin said in a statement: “Our immediate investment will provide work for architects, contractors and builders as well as result in 2,000 new jobs for staff in our pubs… however investment in conditional on the UK opening back up again on a long-term basis, with no further lockdowns or the constant changing of rules”.



Frasers Group has acquired the 210,000 sq ft Robin Retail Park in Wigan from Nuveen Real Estate. The park currently houses an M&S Foodhall, Pets at Home, JD Sports and Boots. In a statement, Michael Murray, head of elevation at Frasers Group said: “We plan to transform this retail park into a modern, aspirational shopping destination for the local area. We are excited to bring our new elevated retail concepts to Wigan and breathe new life into the area.”


The Debenhams store recently vacated in Gloucester has been purchased by the University of Gloucestershire to be used as student halls. The university hopes that students will begin studying there in September 2023.


Similarly, a former M&S store in Hull is to reopen as a temporary job centre, as the pandemic has created new demand for services. A spokesperson for developer Wykeland Group said in a statement: “We are developing longer-term plans to bring this landmark building back into permanent use but, in the meantime, we had no hesitation in making the ground floor available for this important purpose.”


Openings and closures

The Dorchester is to open first rooftop restaurant in 90 years; Gordon Ramsay is to continue the rollout of his Street Pizza brand with a new opening at Battersea Power Station next month; Holiday firm Tui will shut 48 more high street shops.

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