Calls to turn St Albans BHS store into John Lewis
- Credit: Archant
Following the announcement that British Home Stores (BHS) has gone into liquidation, local people are already coming up with future uses for the St Albans store.
The 88-year-old British high street chain failed to secure a buyer after going into administration in April, which caused it to be pushed into liquidation on Thursday (2).
A petition was created the following day (Friday) calling for the large St Albans store in St Peter’s Street to be taken over by the John Lewis Partnership.
The petition was set up following a debate on St Albans Facebook group St Albans Present Memories about what people would like to see it replaced with.
Nick Johnson, of Harpenden, who started the petition, said: “I thought it might be interesting to see how many people were in favour [of a John Lewis] so I started the petition - and I’ve been impressed by the numbers.”
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Nick himself would like to see the shop taken over by John Lewis over other brands. He added: “For me, St Albans has the right socio-economic mix, population size and footfall for a department store like John Lewis but we don’t have one in town.
“The nearest department store is Luton, and the nearest John Lewis is probably Welwyn.”
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But some are opposed to the idea. Nick continued: “The main argument against the idea seems to be that John Lewis wouldn’t take on the premises as the floor space is too small for them - but perhaps a concept store similar to their shop in St Pancras station would work.”
Nick was keen to point out that there was a feeling of sadness about the loss of BHS from the St Albans high street.
He added: “It’s a real shame about BHS as I know the company and the St Albans store has been around for a long time. The closing of this branch will have an impact locally with people losing their jobs.
“Hopefully bringing a new employer like John Lewis to the high street would be a silver lining and help boost the local economy.”
Gregory Moulton, who owns Let Me Properties in St Albans, said he thought that John Lewis would be a great fit for the high street.
He went on: “I think that people are tired of these low budget stores opening up. People do use them, they’re everyone’s vice and we all pop in from time to time, but I think people would want something a bit more upmarket.”
He added that if it wasn’t John Lewis, there were various retailers which could take on the premises and it would likely be a big name.
Gregory continued: “Independents are wonderful and we’ve got quite a lot of good ones but I don’t know if an independent could take on such a big store.”
To the likely disappointment of many, John Lewis don’t have any current plans to move to the area.
A John Lewis spokesperson said: “John Lewis is often linked to retail developments and we are flattered by Mr Johnson’s petition, but unfortunately we have no current plans to open a shop in St Albans.”