Last of three generations of Jenners workers recalls fond family memories in plea to building owners to keep department store
and live on Freeview channel 276
Susan Honeyford, her late mother Mary Calder and 94-year-old grandmother Mary Cunningham all worked at the Princes Street store for various spells over the last 50 years.
House of Fraser, which bought Jenners in 2005, revealed on Monday they would cease trading on May 3 with the loss of 200 jobs. But a spokesman for Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, who owns the building, later revealed they are in “advanced talks” with retailers and planning a programme of work to ensure that, when safe and able to do so, Jenners will reopen with the goal of returning the department store to its “former glory.”
Frasers owns the commercial rights to the Jenners trading name but the spokesman for Povlsen insisted that, so long as they are stewards, the Jenners building will “always have a department store.”
Mrs Honeyford, who lives in Bo’ness, said: “I would like to see it return as a department store. People said you had to be rich to work at Jenners but you didn’t - they sold everything at recommended retail price. We just have so many fond memories and, with all of the history, it needs to be retained in that way.”
The 44-year-old mum of two said her grandmother, Mrs Cunningham, worked there from 1971-86 in the silver department selling the likes of tea sets, quaichs and cutlery. The area later became the toy department.
As the news of the Frasers departure emerged on Monday, the pair reminisced about their Jenners days.
Mrs Cunningham recalled how junior staff would come into the silver department for 15 minutes each day to dust down the shelves before store opening, while her granddaughter remembers the magical moments over Christmas time - from the tree and seeing Santa to visiting the Rose Street restaurant for something to eat and drink.
Mrs Honeyford, who worked in the Pringle of Scotland ladies wear department on the first floor about two decades ago for over a year, said a small number of staff there who had previously worked alongside her grandmother always used to refer to her as “Mrs Cunningham’s granddaughter.”
And she said her mother, Mrs Calder, who worked in customer service for men's shirt company Van Heusen for five years in the 1980s, talked about a toy tweeting bird placed in the Christmas tree every year that would irritate her colleague and friend, Sally Oliver, to the point she would regularly have to go and find it to switch it off.
Mrs Calder, who died of bowel cancer at the age of 61 a decade ago, also talked about once having to phone up a credit card company to authorise a transaction and she was promptly advised to take the customer’s card and cut it up in front of them.
Mrs Honeyford, who is a carer for her grandmother, says she last visited Jenners with the family over Christmas time in 2019 to see the tree while also taking in the Christmas Market.
Undoubtedly, there are many more families across Edinburgh who will be hoping for the retention of the department store.
Building owner, Mr Povlsen, had been working on a redevelopment of the building as a hotel with cafes, rooftop restaurant and shops. His spokesman said this project is on hold due to the current economic climate but insisted plans were centred around a refurbished department store.
The news concerning Jenners came as another major store in Princes Street was dealt a final blow. Online fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55 million, but the chain’s 118 remaining shops will close and its 12,000 staff will be made redundant.
Debenhams was later officially wound up by a judge in an online hearing in the Insolvency and Companies Court. He described the retailer as a "rudderless ship" drifting in an "ocean of insolvency".
Plans had already been unveiled last month for the Debenhams store in Princes Street to be transformed into a city-centre "hub" featuring a hotel, shops, restaurants and a rooftop bar open to the public. The £50 million development would also include hospitality, leisure and a flexible event space.