From small boutique to icon of Princes Street - How Jenners became Edinburgh institution

After the Evening News revealed that Jenners is set to depart Princes Street after over 180 years - we look back on its history.

By Conor Matchett
Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 7:02 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 9:43 am

Jenners is unarguably Edinburgh’s best-loved department store and was up until 2005, the oldest surviving independent department store in the world.

The grand store, long regarded as one of Edinburgh’s most esteemed and magnificent institutions, started when a pair of drapers, Charles Kennington and Charles Jenner, were sacked from their jobs for going to the Musselburgh races rather than turn up for their shifts.

Luckily the pair had backed the right horse.

Trading started on May 1, 1838 under the name Kennington and Jenner.

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They bought the lease on a converted townhouse property on the corner of Princes Street and South St David Street to start their own drapers.

Trading started on May 1, 1838 under the name Kennington and Jenner. The boutique corner shop was soon raking in profits and expanded to become the largest retail establishment in Scotland. In 1892 disaster struck when the store burned to the ground.

With substantial insurance funds and financial backing from the town council, Jenners’ rebirth was nothing short of spectacular. Architect William Hamilton Beattie was enlisted to create a true Edinburgh landmark for generations to come. The store continued to thrive during the 1900s and expanded several times to take up further retail space along both Rose Street and Princes Street.

The store continued to thrive during the 1900s and expanded several times

In 2005, despite changing their mission statement to “Confidently Independent” the year before, the company was sold to its rival House of Fraser for £46m after being family run for 167 years.

Nationally recognised as an emblem of Edinburgh, Jenners is truly an icon of Scotland’s capital.

What next for iconic building?

As Jenners looks set to depart Princes Street, luxury brands owned by Anders Povlsen could replace those lost by its departure.

Bestseller was founded in 1975 by Toels Holch Polvsen and inherited by his son when he was 28 years old, helping to build his fortune to a reported sum of more than £4.5bn.

Its major brands include Jack and Jones, a brand targeted at young men with a focus on quality jeans, which already has more than 1,000 stores across 38 countries.

Bestseller’s biggest brand, ONLY, focuses on denim clothing for young women and has more than 4,500 stores worldwide.

Vera Moda, the women’s fashion brand, is also owned by the company and could potentially feature in the new development for the Jenners building.

Other brands include Jacqueline de Yong, Selected, name it, LMTD, Pieces, and Noisy May.

Bestseller, via its parent company Heartland, is also the largest shareholder of popular online clothing website Asos, owning nearly a third of the business.

As yet, there are no details as to the brands that are lined up for the project’s food and drink offering or the hotel.