John Lewis has moved a step closer to getting the go-ahead for its Sprucefield department store in Northern Ireland.
The Planning Appeals Commission has set a date of November 30 for a public inquiry into the development of the store, which has been five years in the making.
John Lewis retail director Gareth Thomas welcomed the inquiry. “It will flash out flimsy objections,” he said. “We will abide by due process and press on. It will provide 700 jobs for Northern Ireland.”
John Lewis, which outlined plans to double its number of full-line department stores over the next decade, has been plagued by delays to the shopping centre development pipeline during the downturn.
Thomas added that he was “moderately confident” that John Lewis’s planned Dublin store will open in 2014.
However, planned stores in Oxford, Leeds, Preston, Sheffield, Crawley and Portsmouth have been mothballed. To counter the delays the retailer will open smaller out-of-town stores and has invested £6m in a home and electricals format called John Lewis at Home.
Last week, at a topping out ceremony for its £35m full-line department store at Stratford, in east London – part of Westfield’s Stratford City development adjacent to the Olympic site – the retailer said it would provide 250 jobs to long-term unemployed local residents and create 700 jobs in total.
The store, which is set over 155,000 sq ft of trading space and features a 35,000 sq ft Waitrose in the basement, is due to open in 2011. It will be the first department store to feature John Lewis’ new concept for its furnishings and textiles department.
Where the retailer has introduced new concepts in its menswear, womenswear and beauty concepts, stores have reported a sales uplift of between 10 and 20 per cent.