Retailer may quit site
Jenners owner in talks over store’s Princes Street future
Historic home: Jenners is on the move (pic: Terry Murden)
UPDATED: Jenners’ owner Sports Direct and the building’s billionaire landlord are locked in talks about the retailer’s long term future at its historic Edinburgh home.
Sports Direct, which acquired Jenners last year as part of its takeover of House of Fraser, said in a statement that it had “NOT served notice to leave the building” in Princes Street – amid speculation it would relocate to the new St James Centre.
The building’s owner Anders Holch Povlsen wants to refurbish it and insisted “the department store is a vital future part of the project”.
However, he made it clear that Sports Direct wants revised terms for Jenners if it is to remain on a site it has occupied since 1838.
Since buying the House of Fraser brand last year, Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has attempted to cut rents on the group’s outlets.
Mr Povlsen said: “We have a constructive dialogue and coordination with the present tenant about how this is done in the best manner. We have up until now done our utmost to let the tenant stay in the building by offering them favourable terms. If they should end up not wanting to continue, it is unfortunately not our decision.”
Mr Povlsen, who bought the building in 2017 for a reported £50m, has instructed advisers to draw up alternative plans to open a hotel and restaurant in the category A listed premises.
David Chipperfield Architects, which has been working on the designs for the new concert venue in nearby St Andrew Square, has been appointed by the billionaire to lead the design of the project.
The redevelopment of Jenners will include more than 10,000 square metres of hotel space, 7,000 square metres of retail space including cafes and restaurants.
Discussions between the developers and the council are ongoing ahead of a formal planning application being submitted.
Earlier, councillor Neil Gardiner, planning committee convener, told The Scotsman and Evening News: “Jenners Department Store holds many fond memories for Edinburgh citizens and visitors alike.
“If the building has an alternative use in the future it would be important to consider how the key features of the building can be incorporated into any proposed redevelopment.
We need to keep active frontage in Princes Street– Neil Gardiner, Edinburgh City Council
“We recently consulted on retail use in the city centre to make sure our planning policies remain flexible and councillors will look at any proposed changes to our guidance in the New Year.”
Regarding possible conversion of Jenners into a hotel, Councillor Gardiner added that the future of Princes Street is already changing. The other former House of Fraser store at the west end is being converted into a £150m Johnnie Walker visitor centre.
“We need to keep active frontage in Princes Street but there is plenty of scope and opportunity for other uses as well including the upper levels with truly outstanding views of the castle and gardens,” he said.
”Princes Street has over time been adaptable: first set out for residential use, over time it emerged as a place for grand hotels and members clubs and shopping.
“With appropriate policies it can continue to evolve to meet changing needs in a way which respects its place in this city.”
Chris Pyne, leasing director at Edinburgh St James, commented: “We are holding discussions with a number of occupiers, but we do not comment on confidential negotiations whilst they remain just that.”
Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley announced yesterday his company would rebrand as Frasers Group but denied a deal had been done to relocate Jenners to St James.