John Lewis confirms it will not seek new Portsmouth store after Knight & Lee closure

A MAJOR retail company will not seek to open a new store in Portsmouth following its mourned closure last year.

Monday, 13th January 2020, 4:00 pm

John Lewis has confirmed it will not look for another city premises after closing its iconic Knight & Lee shop in Palmerston Road, Southsea, despite calls from local politicians.

A spokeswoman for John Lewis said: 'We had various discussions with the council and local MP Stephan Morgan, when we announced our plans and at the time of closure. We have had no further conversations since then.

'While we do always keep our estate under continuous review, we have no plans for other shops in this area.

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The Knight & Lee building, Palmerston Road, Southsea. Courtesy of BECG

'However, to ensure we continue offering our customers the best service and experience, we invested and upgraded our click and collect pick up point at the Waitrose and Partners, Southsea.'

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Knight & Lee closed its doors in July and 127 jobs were lost as a result. Plans have since been approved to transform the 1950s building into a cinema, offices, shops and coffee bar by developers That Group.

But Portsmouth City Council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, maintained talks between the council and John Lewis had been carried out at the end of February 2019 as planned.

'There were conversations since the closure was announced because I was talking to them,' he said.

'But as time has gone on and John Lewis’s results have gone down it's been very clear they are not in the mood for expansion.

'I think it's just a really difficult time for retail and department stores at the moment.'

MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said he would continue to fight for high streets in Portsmouth. He said: ‘I have been in discussion with John Lewis head office regarding the relocation of staff and to lobby for a click and collect store to be opened. I have hosted discussions in parliament with That Group, the company taking over the property, to advise them on what retail opportunities would best serve the people of Portsmouth.

‘I continue to do everything in my power to bring our city’s high streets back from the brink.’

Tory group leader, Cllr Donna Jones, added: 'It is a loss. But if I was leader and the northern quarter redevelopment had been done we could've built a retail park that would've been attractive to a company like John Lewis.'

It is thought work to transform Knight & Lee will begin this year.