Department stores have been in decline for years; the rise of online retailing is relentless; and the pandemic is accelerating shopping trends. Even so, John Lewis’s plan to close a supposedly flagship store in the centre of Birmingham – opened as recently as 2015 – was a shocker on another bleak day for retailing jobs. If the UK’s best operator of department stores can’t see a way to make money from modern premises in the country’s second largest city, where can it?
There was also an intriguing subplot to the tale. The Birmingham opening was a proud venture of Andy Street, managing director of the John Lewis chain at the time but these days mayor of the West Midlands. Closure “risks being a dreadful mistake”, said Street, implicitly criticising his successors at the partnership.
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