COMMENT: Knight & Lee closure is a blow for the whole city

For more than 100 years Knight and Lee has stood proudly on the corner of Palmerston Road and Clarendon Road, literally a cornerstone of the Southsea shopping precinct.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 5:09 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:43 pm

It’s not a cliché to say people head to the John Lewis-owned store because they know that even though they will probably pay a bit more for goods, they will be getting quality with great customer service. 

The announcement that the store will close after more than a century is an enormous blow, not just to Southsea, but the city. 

And it comes after a pledge by John Lewis in 2014 to keep the store open – the only one in the chain that doesn’t bear the name. 

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Around 127 jobs are at risk but, in reality, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The impact on the high street will be huge.

Knight and Lee is a major draw and with that gone from July, what will other retailers think about renewing their leases or opening new shops? 

We do not know what the future holds for Debenhams either. 

John Lewis say the closure has nothing to do with Brexit and it has come about due to a perfect storm of high maintenance costs and the chance to sell the freehold. Their claim  they can better serve Southsea customers from Chichester and Southampton is absurd. 

People use Knight and Lee because the service is second-to-none, they have an old-fashioned (but still in demand) haberdashery, and a cafe. All the ingredients of a great department store. 

Shoppers are unlikely to head to Chichester, they’ll go online. Meaning other shops will miss out on that custom too. 

It’s such a shame to lose a department store of Knight and Lee’s stature from the town.

Let’s hope the new owners of the site, THAT Group replace it with something deserving of its prominent position on the high street.