Knight & Lee closure: Staff and shoppers are shocked at decision to shut

STAFF at Knight & Lee in Southsea admitted they were ‘shocked’ after finding out the news the historic department store will close its doors in the summer.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 3:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:41 pm
23/1/19 Knight and Lee Closure at Palmerston Rd, Portsmouth, Southsea Loyal customers Melikian and Diana Gorik upset about the shop closing. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Shoppers were also left in disbelief at the announcement, which sent shockwaves through the streets of Southsea this morning – with many seeing it as symptomatic of the high street dying.

Many others believe the loss of the flagship shop will put the final nail in the coffin of retail in Southsea.

It means 127 employees – or partners as the John Lewis-owned store calls them – face redundancy. The company confirmed it would do its best to find alternative jobs for them without making any promises.

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23/1/19 Knight and Lee Closure at Palmerston Rd, Portsmouth, Southsea Loyal customers Melikian and Diana Gorik upset about the shop closing. Picture: Habibur Rahman

With the store closed to the public today, staff were called to a hastily arranged meeting this morning where they were told the news. Many were spotted leaving the premises holding folders and paperwork they had been given by the company.

Despite remaining tight-lipped about the finer details of the meeting, workers of the store confirmed it was closing.

One said: ‘We’ve just been told they will be closing it. It is a bit of a shock. We had a feeling something like this may happen, though.’

Meanwhile, scores of shoppers were seen trying to enter the store before being turned away by designated staff who were manning the doors. Many of those expressed emotions ranging from shock, sadness and anger – with some people clearly emotional about the development.

Diana and Milikian Gorik, of Southsea, admitted it would be a blow to lose the shop. ‘If we don’t have this shop then where are we going to go to do our shopping?’ Diana, 81, said. ‘It is the only big shop that has everything we need. We will have to go to the centre of Portsmouth or the industrial estate now.’

Milikian said: ‘Everything is going online. We need more little shops where we can pop into and buy what we need. It is a sign of the times. It is a good to go into shops and touch and feel things before buying them.’

Heather Harrison, of Southsea, said: ‘It is such sad news. It is the main reason I come into Southsea. There is nowhere else like it and had good options like its click and collect.

‘It brings people to the area. I have friends who live in London and Norfolk who are thinking of moving to Southsea and Knight & Lee is one of the reasons they would move here. This will have a massive effect on the whole area.’

Lucy Burch added: ‘It is terrible news. It is the best shop here. A lot of people won’t want to come here now.’