John Lewis Knight and Lee Southsea closure is confirmed as bosses say site freehold has been sold to developers.
There’s a potential blow to Southsea and Portsmouth’s retail industry today as the John Lewis Partnership confirm the closure of Southsea’s Knight & Lee branch.
The Southsea Knight and Lee store has today closed its doors to allow a staff meeting to take place to discuss the fate of the store.
Although reporting record sales for 2018, the store is one of the smaller of the Partnership’s portfolio and is under fire for closure from company executives. Dates as early as July 2019 have been discussed.
A press release from John Lewis Partnership has pointed to a number of factors in the decision to close the Southsea branch including:
The physical condition, size, age and shape of the property restricts the customer offer; It would require significant investment to modernise Knight & Lee; and At the end of last year, a unique commercial opportunity presented itself to sell the freehold of the building and close Knight & Lee.
The press release went on to say: ‘John Lewis has a small, high quality shop estate and its shops play a critical role in its relationship with customers. As announced last year, as part of its strategy update and plan to prioritise differentiation, the focus in property is on maintaining the existing estate, with some resizing, repurposing or relocating over time. It keeps its estate under review to ensure these shops are offering customers inspiration, are in the right locations and of the right size to deliver financial returns. John Lewis is not planning other closures at this time.
The closure puts all 127 shop Partners at risk of redundancy. Every effort will be made to find them roles in John Lewis and Waitrose shops in the surrounding area. The shop is not opening today to allow for discussions with Partners and will reopen tomorrow.’
Dino Rocos, Partner & Operations Director for John Lewis, said: “We have not taken this decision lightly and we considered every implication for our Partners, customers, and the community. However, a unique combination of factors, including the significant investment required and the opportunity to sell the property freehold, makes this the right decision for the financial sustainability of our business.
“We also want to bring the very best of what John Lewis & Partners has to offer to all of our customers and, in Southsea, we believe we can better serve them through our Southampton and Chichester shops, and online with an improved Click & Collect offer at Waitrose & Partners Southsea.
“Our team at Knight & Lee are a loyal and long-serving team of Partners. We are doing everything we can to offer them roles elsewhere in our business and finding suitable roles for as many Partners as possible is an absolute priority. Nevertheless, there will unfortunately be some redundancies and we will work hard to support all the Partners affected.
“We want to thank our Partners and Knight & Lee customers for their loyalty over the years.”
Last night Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South, wrote to John Lewis’ head office to see if they could turn this decision around. Read the full letter below.
Stephen wrote: “Knight & Lee is a and well-loved asset in my constituency. It employs many hardworking people across the region who have given so much to assist you in building such a reputable brand in my city.”
He also asked for a time to meet with John Lewis Partnership Managing Director Paula Nickolds to discuss the concerns.
The Southsea Knight & Lee store opened in 1865 and was later acquired by the John Lewis Partnership in 1933.
A brief statement has been issued from Portsmouth City Council. Cllr Steve Pitt, Deputy Leader, Portsmouth City Council said: “We understand that the John Lewis Partnership is making an announcement to staff this morning about the future of their Knight and Lee Southsea store. The council is in contact with the company, awaiting their official statement and we will provide a further update later today.”