‘There will be life in Peterborough after John Lewis’, proclaims veteran businessman

A leading businessman in Peterborough has declared there will be life in the city after John Lewis.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 8:55 am

Entrepreneur Iain Forsythe says while the announcement by the department store chain that it does not plan to reopen its 125,000 sq ft Queensgate store after lockdown is a blow, it is not a disaster for the city.

Mr Forsythe, chairman of kitchen and bedroom manufacturer PKB Trade, in Wainman Road, and a director of economic development company Opportunity Peterborough said: “Peterborough is a resilient city and we have ambitious growth plans.

“It would be better if John Lewis was to stay but maybe a more boutique type of retail is what is needed.

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John Lewis at Queensgate EMN-210324-141206009

Mr Forsythe, who has run his own business for three decades, added: “We have seen BHS and Debenhams go and it seems that model of business can’t continue.

“The closure of John Lewis is a blow but it’s not a disaster for Peterborough.

“There will be life after John Lewis.

“No one is going to be moving away from Peterborough because we don’t have a John Lewis store.”

John Lewis is currently consulting about the closure plans with its 318 staff who work at its Queensgate store.

It hopes to find alternative work for them within the business.

Announcing the closure yesterday, the retailer said it could no longer profitably sustain the Peterborough store, and that was despite a £21 million revamp in 2019.

John Bridge, chief executive of Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, said: “The permanent closure of John Lewis will be a terrible blow to its staff and the city.

“It is the store that many people really go to Queensgate for - although there is also Primark in the Queensgate.

He said: “Looking ahead, we need to think very creatively about the future of the city centre and I think we should be careful not to try and replicate what we already have. We must look at things differently.”

Tom Hennessy, chief executive of economic development company Opportunity Peterborough, said: “The announcement from John Lewis is extremely sad news, and our thoughts are with the staff affected.

“This has been an unbelievably tough period for the high street and there are tough decisions facing many businesses.

“If there are redundancies, Opportunity Peterborough will be working with local partners to provide support to those affected to help them find work.”

The Peterborough John Lewis store is one of eight across the country the retailer plans to close putting almost 1,500 jobs at risk.

The move has sparked concerns among union leaders.

Roger Jenkins, GMB National Officer, said: “For generations, the likes of John Lewis has been the cornerstones of the high street and these closures could see the end to 1,500 good quality jobs across the UK.

“Without these anchor stores there’s a serious risk that more people will choose online rather than in town to do their shopping, with hundreds of workers in small retailers feeling the pinch.

“Unless the Government takes decisive action, today’s development could mark the beginning for the end of the high street in many UK towns.

“From now on, saving the high street has to be their immediate priority, so that thousands of workers know their jobs are safe.”