Uncertain future

Jenners building owner says store will remain open

Jenners owned by House of Fraser

Historic name: Jenners has been in the site for nearly two centuries (pic: Terry Murden)

The future of Edinburgh department store, Jenners, one of the most famous names in retail, was thrown into confusion after the building’s owner announced that the store would remain open despite Frasers saying it would close.

Frasers – which has owned Jenners since 2005 – failed to reach an agreement on rent with the building’s owner, the Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen. The decision will lead to the loss of 200 jobs.

A spokesman for Frasers Group, majority-owned by Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, said: “Despite the global pandemic, numerous lockdowns and the turbulence caused for British retail, the landlord hasn’t been able to work mutually on a fair agreement, therefore, resulting in the loss of 200 jobs and a vacant site for the foreseeable future with no immediate plans.

“Our commitment to our Frasers strategy remains, but landlords and retailers need to work together in a fair manner, especially when all stores are closed.”

Hours later, Anders Krogh Vogdrup – the director of AAA United, which owns the building – said it will continue as a store and that the Jenners name would remain. It had given Frasers a substantial rent reduction and rent-free periods to cover the lockdowns.

“Frasers has made the decision that it does not wish to continue in occupation,” he said. “This will see the end of the 16-year association between House of Fraser and this building, but not of the 180 years of Jenners department store.”

Mr Vogdrup said it had bought the Jenners building “out of passion for its architecture and history”.

“We have been sad to read on social media that we are to close the department store, and that is not the case,” he said.

“We fought to keep the current tenant and we are now in advanced talks with other partners.”

The department store has occupied the Princes Street location for more than 180 years. 

Mr Povlsen, reputedly the richest individual in Scotland thanks to owning a swathe of the Highlands, is understood to be seeking to renovate the building and convert it to a hotel, with cafes and rooftop restaurant and a number of luxury shops linked to his clothing empire Bestseller.

He bought the building for a reported £50m in 2017.

According to records, he has a £6 billion fortune which includes 221,000 acres of the Highlands, acquired through his company Wildland, a conservation project. Among the assets is the 500-acre Aldourie Castle estate, the only habitable castle on Loch Ness.

Last year it followed a number of other Scotland-based companies by arranging repayment of £296,000 received from the Treasury in Covid cover.

In September 2019 it was reported that he had added the North Coast 500 route to his portfolio.

He is the biggest single shareholder in online clothing giant Asos with a 26.4% stake.

Tragedy struck in April 2019 when three of his four children died in a terrorist bombing in Sri Lanka.

There was speculation last year that Frasers, which sold its other Princes Street store to Diageo, would relocate Jenners to the nearby St James Quarter.

The Frasers store at the west end of Edinburgh’s most famous shopping street is being converted into a Johnnie Walker tourist and leisure centre.

Developments at Jenners came on the day that online retailer Boohoo announced it was buying Debenhams and would close all of its remaining department stores.

Comment: Ashley plays hard ball in big retail’s fight for survival

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