‘Underperforming’ John Lewis store in Sheffield to get ‘comprehensive refurbishment’, new update reveals – as council faces extra £400,000 bill after deal with retailer

The John Lewis store in Sheffield is ‘underperforming’ and is in line for a ‘comprehensive refurbishment’ to boost its fortunes, a report has revealed after a deal was reached between the city council and the retailer.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 10:56 am

It has also emerged that Sheffield Council faces an extra £400,000 bill in tax and legal costs on top of the £3 million it paid to John Lewis to buy out the lease on its Barker’s Pool premises so a new 20-year contract could be signed with a rent based on turnover.

The new details have come to light in a document named Capital Strategy and Budget Book, presented for discussion at a council scrutiny committee meeting.

The document confirms that a further, as yet undetermined, sum of money will be given to John Lewis by the council to pay for a revamp, funded by prudential borrowing.

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John Lewis in Barker's Pool, Sheffield.

Described as the ‘comprehensive refurbishment’ of a ‘key anchor retail store’, the report says the scheme will involve ‘bringing an underperforming store up to modern retail standards, safeguarding jobs and attracting wider inward investment’.

Elsewhere in the report the cost of buying out John Lewis’ leasehold interest in Barker’s Pool is cited as £3.4 million – £400,000 more than the amount stated by the council in response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Star.

A council spokeswoman said: “The John Lewis & Partners store is in need of refurbishment to upgrade it to modern retailing standards and ensure it is an attractive place to shop and visit.

"The payment for the previous lease was £3 million as reported; that is the money they received from the council and will be reinvested back into the shop.

"As with any building purchase, the buyer also has to allow for stamp duty land tax, lawyers and legal fees, which is what the additional £400,000 budget is for.”

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In August 2020 the John Lewis Partnership announced that it had agreed a two-decade lease, to run until 2040, with the council on its Sheffield branch, incorporating plans for a refurbishment of the building.

The deal came shortly after members of the council’s cabinet committee approved proposals to retain the store as part of the £480 million Heart of the City II project – allowing the authority to buy out John Lewis’ ‘nominal’ lease and give the employee-owned retailer money towards the cost of improvements.

Speaking after the £3 million figure came to light, Nalin Seneviratne, the council’s director of city centre development, said the sum was ‘a fair price’.

The Barker’s Pool building was constructed in the early 1960s as a replacement for the old Cole Brothers department store on Fargate. John Lewis acquired Cole Brothers in 1940 and traded under the name in Sheffield until 2002.

The council, which is leading Heart of the City II alongside real estate specialist Queensberry, owned the freehold of the land in Barker's Pool, but John Lewis – which closed shops permanently following the first lockdown amid falling profits – had a 99-year lease on the site.

Sheffield’s high street has been hit hard by the pandemic, making John Lewis’ presence even more crucial. Debenhams, and the combined Dorothy Perkins and Burton on The Moor, are among the biggest casualties.

John Lewis was approached for comment.

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