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Woocommerce Category Post Widget
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.
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.
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.
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.