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Investigation launched as Jenners sign removed from historic department store

Lauretta Roberts
16 April 2021

The owner of the building housing the historic Jenners department store in Edinburgh has launched an investigation as the gold sign bearing the store's name was removed this week.

Jenners is currently occupied by Mike Ashley's Frasers Group, which is due to exit the building in May, and which owns the commercial trading rights to the Jenners name. The site is owned by Danish billionaire and retail investor Anders Holch Povlsen.

A spokesperson for Holch Povlsen told the BBC that it had been "very surprised" to see the sign disappear while the City of Edinburgh Council is launching an investigation into the matter to check whether the move was a breach of planning rules.

Anders Krogh Vogdrup - the director of AAA United, which owns the Jenners building - told BBC Scotland: "We are very surprised seeing the signage being taken down. We are convinced that the signage is part of the listed building.

"We have not discussed any such step with [Frasers Group], and certainly not given any authorisation to do so. We will look in to this matter."

Jenners was founded as a drapery business in 1837 by Charles Jenner and Charles Kennington, and was originally known as "Kennington & Jenner". Kennington retired in 1861 and the store became Charles Jenner and Co. in 1874. Jenner retired in 1881 and left the store to his junior partner James Kennedy and his descendants the Douglas-Miller family.

Fire destroyed the original buildings in 1892 and in 1893 the Scottish architect William Hamilton Beattie was appointed to design the new store which subsequently opened in 1895. Jenners has held a Royal Warrant since 1911.

In 2005 the Douglas-Miller family sold the business – the oldest independent department store in Scotland - to House of Fraser, but the name was retained.

Mike Ashley's Frasers Group, acquired the House of Fraser business out of administration in 2018 and subsequently closed several stores including the original Frasers store in Edinburgh. It has since been transformed into a whisky distillery and tourist attraction by Diageo.

Ashley has since adopted the Frasers name for his retail group, which was previously known as Sports Direct International, and is using the Frasers brand for a series of upscale department stores, some of which will be converted from former House of Fraser stores. This week it opened the first brand new Frasers store in a former Debenhams building in Wolverhampton.

Anders Holch Povlsen, who owns Bestseller and a stake in ASOS, acquired the Jenners building for a reported £50m in 2017 and is said to be set to transform it into a hotel and a new department store. Negotiations with new tenants are underway.

In images taken of the Jenners department store on Wednesday this week (14 April), the Jenners sign was still in place, but according to the BBC, by yesterday it has disappeared.

Images: courtesy of Eric Musgrave

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