Bosses at Jenners have been blasted by a union leader for keeping staff in the dark about plans to leave its historic home on Princes Street.
Staff took to social media to state that bosses at the store had told them nothing about the plans which also prompted an outpouring of love for the iconic Edinburgh brand after the Evening News revealed the plans for the building.
Plans for the building from Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, who is reported to be worth £4.5bn, include a rooftop restaurant, bar and hotel as well as retaining around 7,000 square metres of retail space.
The blow to staff came as Mr Povlsen’s property company who own the building said it has offered Mike Ashley’s company “favourable terms” to stay in its iconic location.
Reacting to the potential closure of the store, Bryan Simpson, Unite Hospitality organiser, said: “For workers at this flagship department store to find out about the closure of their workplace via social media is completely unacceptable but not surprising.
“As the owner of Jenners; Sports Direct have a history of imposing draconian conditions on their workforce without any consultation, including a disgraceful disciplinary policy which saw staff being threatened with dismissal for being sick or using a mobile phone.”
It followed an outpouring of love for the Jenners name and store from Edinburgh residents on social media.
One reader, Bronwen Banks, said “Jenners is my favourite shop, it’s so beautiful. Princes Street won’t be the same if it goes.”
Another reader, Caroline Moffat, said she remembered the days her aunt worked in the china department fondly.
She said: “Princes Street won’t be the same without Jenners”.
Jenners offered 'favourable terms'
An offer to House of Fraser for Jenners to have a continued presence in their historic home as part of its redevelopment has been made by Mr Povlsen’s property company.
Anders Krogh, project manager for the Jenners building, said Mike Ashley’s company have been offered “favourable terms” to remain as a tenant alongside other new occupants of the building.
The Povlsen plan would see restaurants, cafes and a hotel brought in with retail remaining on what is expected to be a much reduced level, possibly just two lower floors.
Staying within the Jenners building is likely to mean operating within a tiny fraction of the current Jenners retail space.
The obvious alternative is a move to the under construction St James Quarter where the tenant of one of the two flagship units is yet to be announced.
House of Fraser has said that it has not agreed a deal to move to the St James, and said it has not served notice to leave the Jenners building.
It is understood negotiations between Sports Direct, House of Fraser’s parent company, and the St James Centre are ongoing.
Alongside the retail and food and drink offering, the rest of the building will be taken up by a 10,000 square metre hotel.
The hotel will include a private terrace with views of the Mound and Arthur’s Seat.
'If Jenners leave, it will not be our decision'
Mr Krogh said the intention of the project was not to shut Jenners down and was focused on the resotartion and revival of the building, rather than the business within it.
He said: “It´s important to underline that our plans do not mean closing down Jenners. Our project is to strengthen the Jenners Building.
“The iconic Jenners Building will always stay and is the very DNA of our plans. In the same way as the department store is a vital future part of the project.
“We have a constructive dialogue and coordination with the present tenant about how this is done in the best manner.”
Mr Krogh added any final decision about the future of the store would be made by Mike Ashley and Jenners’ parent company Sports Direct.
He added: “We have up until now done our utmost to let the tenant stay in the building by offering them favourable terms. If they should end up not wanting to continue, it is unfortunately not our decision.
“We have an important task in terms of ensuring the future of the property.
“In the long term, we hope to be able to lift the property to the level of the past and find partners who will protect and enhance the beauty and standing of the Jenners Building on Princes Street.”
Sports Direct state notice has not been served on lease
Sports Direct who own the Jenners brand under the House of Fraser name, did not deny negotiations with the St James Centre were ongoing and did not respond to questions about the future of the store beyond its expected closure date of 2021.
The company also did not answer questions about whether staff had been told about the planned move nor whether any job losses would be on the line.
A spokesman said: “We confirm that we have not served notice to leave the Jenners Building, and it is very much business as usual whilst plans develop on the refurbishment of the building.”
It is expected that Jenners will leave the building in 2021 after an agreement is reached with the building owners.
David Chipperfield Architects, who have been commissioned to build the new concert hall in the city, the Dunard Centre on St Andrew Square, have been appointed the lead designers for the Jenners building project.
Work for the restoration project, which will include a “total restoration” of the Category A listed building’s facade, is also not expected to begin until a deal is agreed with Sports Direct.
At the earliest the project will begin in earnest in 2021.
Other work will include the complete restoration of the central atrium of the building alongside a new facade for the 1966 extension of the building on St David Street.
Discussions between the developers and the council are ongoing ahead of a formal planning application.
The new St James Centre is due to open in October 2020.