John Lewis has announced it aims to open a store in Oxford’s Westgate shopping centre in 2017.
The store, which will have a new ‘flexible format’ layout, will occupy 100,000 square feet and cover three floors. It will focus on fashion, homewares and consumer electronics.
It is part of a new £330m redevelopment hoped for the Westgate if a planning application is approved, with building work poised to begin in 2014.
Andy Street, John Lewis’ managing director, said: “Oxford has long been a sought-after location for us and we’re delighted to be able to expand our reach to customers across the region for the first time, providing them with more convenient access to our inspiring products and great service.
“We’re looking forward to becoming part of the local community.”
Opinions in Oxford are divided on the new John Lewis store.
Councillor Bob Price, the leader of Oxford City Council, said the council was “delighted” to see the chain come to Oxford.
“This will confirm Oxford as one of the leading retail destinations in the UK and significantly contribute to the long-term vitality and viability of the city centre.”
A trader in Oxford’s Covered Market, which is undergoing a period of uncertainty following proposed rent increases of up to 70 per cent, said it might bring more people into the city.
“It is surprising that there is only one department store in a city the size of Oxford, and it might not be a bad thing that there will be another.
“The problem that the council needs to address is parking and traffic in the city. Buses and car parking are too expensive, and there are not enough bike stands.
“People need to be encouraged to come in.”
John Lewis is operated by the John Lewis Partnership, which is owned by a trust on behalf of all of the organisation’s employees.
The company is also responsible for the Waitrose food and drink brand, and supplies the delivery service Ocado.
“I don’t think prices at John Lewis are very helpful when you’re on a student budget, but my gran would love to use it when she comes to visit,” said Matthew Davies, a first year History and English student at Queen’s.
“It would have been useful when first moving here to get things like kettles and mini fridges, rather than having to bring them down with me.”
Another fresher commented: “Having a John Lewis in Oxford, with its employee ownership policy, will feed my insatiable desire for economic justice and could go some way towards satisfying my socialist urges.”