Struggling Perth city centre has been dealt another major blow as kitchenware giant Lakeland confirmed plans to close its landmark St John Street store.
The retailer will quit of the A-listed building in May, with the loss of around a dozen jobs.
Lakeland is next door to the vast Beales department store – formerly McEwans – which shut last year. And it is close to Argos’s High Street branch that closed its doors suddenly in August.
The announcement comes as another major city centre retailer Debenhams continues to fight for its survival, after takeover talks collapsed last month.
Lakeland said its Perth shop will one of four UK branches – and the only one in Scotland – to close in the first half of 2021.
The company said the difficult decision to close the store on May 8 was taken after the coronavirus pandemic had “sadly accelerated a shift in consumer habits”.
Lakeland said it had explored all options and was unable to renegotiate a “viable” lease agreement, or find an alternative site.
Neil Piggot, Lakeland’s Chief People Officer said: “It is with regret that we’ve had to announce the closure of our store in Perth.
“We are very proud of our store team, who have worked exceptionally hard to deliver a wonderful store environment for our customers, and we will be working closely with all our colleagues to support them at this difficult time.”
The retailer set up shop at the former bank building nearly 20 years ago. The three-storey block, designed by prominent Scottish architect David Rhind, is across the street from St John’s Kirk and the soon-to-be-revamped Perth City Hall.
SNP MP Pete Wishart said the news was “extremely disappointing”.
“This will leave another property empty on St John Street,” he said. “Given the major plans afoot for the wider St John’s Square area of Perth, it is really disheartening to see further commercial properties being vacated at this time. My thoughts are with the staff and I am available to assist them in any way that I can.”
Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser added: “This will be a huge loss to the city centre and it must be a worrying and anxious time for staff.
“Once again, this decision demonstrates the economic devastation caused by lockdown, and also the knock-on effect of the increase in online shopping during the pandemic.
“Sadly, we are seeing more and more large, well-known stores disappear from our high streets in what is a sign that shopping habits have changed dramatically.”
Deputy First Minister and local SNP MSP John Swinney said Lakeland’s announcement was “deeply regrettable.”
He said: “I hope that the staff will be able to secure alternative employment by the time the store closes, and that they are coping as well as can be expected during this difficult time.”
City centre councillor and leader of the local Lib Dem group Peter Barrett added: “The loss of Perth’s Lakeland store is a bitter blow for the city centre.
“Lakeland have stated that they are seeking to negotiate with landlords to keep stores trading viably I want to make sure that the council leave no stone unturned in the search for ways and means of supporting the Perth operation and protect local jobs.”
Founded in 1964, Windermere-based Lakeland operates nearly 70 shops in the country.