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Revival of Edinburgh’s Jenners building may force store’s departure | Business

Edinburgh’s Jenners department store could quit the landmark position on Princes Street it has occupied for more than 180 years under plans to turn the site into a hotel, rooftop bar and restaurants.

The Danish fashion billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, who bought the building for a reported £50m in 2017, wants to restore and renovate the building’s Victorian facade and three-storey glass-roofed central atrium and turn more than half the site into a hotel.

Povlsen and his wife Anne, who have an estimated fortune of £4.5bn after investing in the online clothing retailer Asos and building up his parents’ fashion group Bestseller, are among Scotland’s largest private landowners. The Polvsens are carrying out extensive rewilding across their 200,000 acres of estates in Sutherland and the Grampian mountains.

The revival of the Jenners building could provide a boost for Princes Street, which has endured several decades of retail failures including the closure of major stores including BHS and the Frasers department store. But it is not clear if the Jenners department store – now owned by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct – will remain.

High street closures in 2019

Thousands of high street jobs have been lost this year as a result of high profile retail administrations and thousands more are at risk as Mothercare, Debenhams and Forever 21 prepare for closures. Here are some of the key industry names that have been affected.

Mothercare: Has 79 stores and 2,500 UK retail staff as its British arm prepares to go into administration.

Regis/Supercuts: Had 220 salons and 1,200 staff when it went into administration in October.

Bonmarché: Had 318 stores and 2,887 employees when it went into administration in October. It is still trading as it seeks a buyer.

Watt Brothers: The Scottish department chain had 11 stores and 306 employees when it went into administration in October. All the stores closed and the majority of jobs have gone.

Links of London: With 35 stores and 350 staff, the jewellery chain went into administration on 8 October but its sites are still trading.

Forever 21: Had three stores and about 290 employees in the UK when it went into administration in September. Stores are staying open in order to clear stock.

Albemarle & Bond: Suddenly shut all its 116 stores in September with the loss of about 400 jobs, even though it did not call in administrators. It sold its pledge books to rival H&T in September.

Karen Millen and Coast: Had 32 stores and 177 concessions, employing 1,100 people, when it went into administration in August. All sites were closed and the vast majority of staff made redundant after the brands were bought out by online specialist Boohoo.com.

Jack Wills: Had about 100 stores and 1,700 staff in the UK when went into administration in August. Bought by Sports Direct and 98 stores are still trading in the UK and Ireland.

Spudulike: Closed all 37 stores with the loss of about 300 jobs when it went into administration in August.

Bathstore: Had 132 stores and 529 staff when it went into administration in June. Homebase bought 44 stores saving 154 jobs and the brand now trades from 28 stores.

Select: Had 180 stores and 2,000 employees when the fashion retailer went into administration in May. In June administrators at advisory firm Quantuma carried out a CVA closing 11 stores with the loss of about 200 jobs.

Debenhams: Had 166 department stores and more than 25,000 employees when went into administration in April. No store closed immediately and the chain is now owned by its lenders but two will close before Christmas and another 20 in January when the group completes a rescue restructure expected to result in the loss of 1,200 jobs.

Pretty Green: Had 12 stores and about 170 employees when Liam Gallagher’s fashion outlet went into administration in March. All but one store and 33 concessions closed with 100 jobs lost but 67 saved as the brand was bought by JD Sports in April.

Office Outlet: All 94 stores have closed with the loss of 1,170 jobs after the stationery retailer went into administration in March.

LK Bennett: Had 41 stores and 500 employees when it went into administration in March. The brand was bought by its Chinese franchise partner, Rebecca Feng, saving 21 stores, all the group’s concessions and 325 jobs. But more than 100 jobs lost with the closure of 15 stores.

Patisserie Valerie: Had 200 cafes employing nearly 3,000 people when an accounting scandal prompted the chain to call in administrators in January. About 70 of the group’s 200 stores closed immediately with the loss of 900 jobs. About 2,000 jobs were saved when about 100 Patisserie Valerie cafes were rescued by Causeway Capital, more than 20 of which have since closed. 21 Philpotts sandwich shops were bought by AF Blakemore & Son. and four Baker & Spice cafes a were bought by the Department of Coffee & Social Affairs. Sarah Butler

Anders Krogh, project manager of Povlsen’s property development company which owns the Jenners building, said a department store was a “vital future part of the project”, which is set to kick off in 2020 or 2021.

However, he admitted agreement had not been reached about Jenners’ future with Sports Direct, which owns and operates Jenners as part of its House of Fraser group.

Sports Direct, which last year shut the Frasers store that was also on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, is understood to have a lease on the Jenners site which runs only until next year.

A spokesman for Krogh said they had been in talks with Sports Direct: “We have up until now done our utmost to let the tenant stay in the building by offering them favourable terms. If they should end up not wanting to continue, it is unfortunately not our decision.”

Sports Direct bought House of Fraser out of administration in August last year. Since then, six of the group’s original 59 stores have closed, including Frasers in Edinburgh, Exeter, Shrewsbury and Cirencester.

A number of further sites are expected to close after Christmas following Ashley’s admission that House of Fraser was losing more than £1m a week and described its problems as “nothing short of terminal”. Ashley is understood to be operating many of the department stores on no- or low-rent deals, as landlords have opted to keep the stores open at almost any cost.

Mike Ashley’s highly acquisitive Sports Direct group is struggling to digest a number of takeovers. Here are some of the most recent deals involving Sports Direct, including the acquisition of large stakes in other retailers.

House of Fraser

The department store has been struggling since Sports Direct bought 58 sites out of administration for £90m in August 2018, with Dundrum in Ireland acquired later. It now trades from 55 sites, with Hull, Altrincham and Birkenhead set to close. The branch at Lakeside in Thurrock, Essex, is under review as owner Intu plans a housing development. Several more stores are expected to close after Christmas.

Evans Cycles

The specialist bicycle retailer trades from 56 stores after Sports Direct bought 62 stores out of administration in October 2018.


The online furniture retailer was bought out of administration in February 2019. The retailer has nine showrooms and trades in 12 House of Frasers, up from eight on acquisition.

Game Digital

Currently finalising a takeover bid that values the retailer and gaming arena group at just over £52m. The company, which has 274 stores in the UK and 269 in Spain, and 21 gaming arenas, is set to delist later this summer.

Goals Soccer Centre

Sports Direct owns an 18.9% stake that cost about £15m to build up but is now worth £3.9m. Shares in the five-a-side pitch operator, which has 49 sites, were suspended in March and it is considering a sale as discussions continue with tax authorities over an unpaid VAT bill. The company was worth £20.5m when shares were suspended but has debts of about £29m.

French Connection

Sports Direct has spent £10.4m on a 27% stake in the fashion chain, which is currently worth £9.8m. French Connection has been considering a sale since October 2018 after a period of poor trading. The fashion retailer has said sales at established stores fell 6.8% last year, when it made a pre-tax loss of £9.3m. The results of a strategic review are not expected until September.


Mike Ashley’s group has invested nearly £63m building up a 37.8% stake in the online retailer, which is now worth £79m. But Findel’s board recently advised investors to reject a low-ball offer from Sports Direct for the rest of the shares it did not own, which would have valued the company at £140m.


Sports Direct spent more than £150m on building up a near-30% stake in the 165-strong department store chain, which collapsed into administration in April. Ashley fought a bitter battle for the control of the group, which is now owned by a consortium of hedge funds and banks and set to close 22 stores in January after winning support from landlords for a rescue restructure. Ashley, who was a supplier to Debenhams, which housed a few Sports Direct concessions, is challenging the restructuring in court. Sarah Butler

Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at the University of Stirling, said a revamped Jenners building in Edinburgh would complement the St James shopping centre and Waverley Mall developments at the east end of Princes Street. In addition the former Frasers outlet is to be reopened as a Johnnie Walker visitor centre, with a rooftop bar.

He suggested Ashley might wish to focus his investment elsewhere: “Clearly the Jenners name is iconic, it was called the Harrods of the north, but it hasn’t been that for some time.” He added that the department store faced heavy competition from the nearby Harvey Nichols and a John Lewis which was being rebuilt.

This week Ashley announced plans to rename his Sports Direct group as Frasers. The group also owns the Flannels designer fashion chain, Evans Cycles, Sofa.com and the Jack Wills brand alongside the Sports Direct chain. Some key House of Fraser stores will be renamed Frasers next year.

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