The John Lewis Christmas Ad is cute. Pity NI can’t have the store…

Whilst the rest of the UK is enjoying viewing the latest Christmas advert from the UK up market department store chain, John Lewis we should spare a thought for the Northern Ireland shopper who unless they are ready to travel across the water to England, Scotland or Wales or Visit their concession at Arnott’s in Dublin, will not get to experience what all the fuss is about.

A John Lewis department store was first mooted at the Sprucefield site over ten years ago and looks no closer to receiving planning permission today that it did back then. This planning debacle is a warning to any investor wishing to invest in Northern Ireland as to the red tape and hostility and lobbying that can thwart schemes such as this which would have created hundreds of well paid jobs for local people in the retail sector by one of the UK’s most respected employers.

However, rather than approve their plans for their first Irish Store, the Officers and Councillors of Belfast City Council have decided that rather that listen to John Lewis as to their preferred store format and site location for Northern Ireland, that they know better where they should be located constantly pushing the Royal Exchange Development, a site where John Lewis have repeatedly stated they do not wish be to located to and which Belfast City Council and its promotors keep push time and time again to the point where we have reached a stalemate.

If Northern Ireland wants to show to the rest of the world it is open for business and our politicians really do believe in creating quality jobs for the people they represent, planning permission for this store needs to be approved at the earliest opportunity.

Our politicians would be wise to give John Lewis as one of the UK’s most respected employers the respect they are due by helping them locate their store on the site they wish to be located, rather than the site Council Officers, Councillors and their lobby groups who know very little about the retail business have pre-decided where the John Lewis Should be located.

Over the last week we have read about accusations of Dublin stealing FDI investment from Belfast, yet here we have an example of where we are going out of our way to ensure John Lewis goes to Dublin.

Unless the Northern Ireland politicians and officials start to listen to FDI investors and stop dictating terms to them, Northern Ireland will continue to struggle to attract FDI investment.

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  • hgreen

    Rubbish. Being open for business doesn’t mean bending over to big business. There are plenty of brown field locations in Lisburn and Belfast for John Lewis should they want them. The Glasgow John Lewis is in the city centre so why do they not want a Belfast city centre location? Why should they be handed a major competitive advantage and free parking over retailers in Belfast and Lisburn? The job argument is also moot due to the potential negative impact on other retailers.

  • aquifer

    DUP plans to boost Dublin as a shopping destination.

    As brilliant as Brexit.

    They should just merge with Fianna Fail and get on with it.

  • Oriel27

    The road infrastructure is not in place around sprucefield either. A proper motorway link road should be developed from the M1 to the A1 south bound to Dublin. The sprucefield junction would simply not be able for more traffic.

  • Surveyor

    No sorry hgreen, but it’s just a case of spoiled Belfast stamping it’s feet because it didn’t get it’s flagship city centre store. Now non Belfast residents who may want to shop in John Lewis will have to suffer.

  • Tara Brooks

    Why should John Lewis be able to circumvent all the planning rules that are in place for everyone else and open a store that will rip the heart out of Lisburn and Belfast? Could you imagine the vacancy rate in Lisburn Centre with a John Lewis just up the road? I completely support the planning decision

  • hgreen

    I understand it’s both Belfast and Lisburn opposing the development. Plenty of room for them in Lisburn and other town centers as well. What about Newry? Or are they looking for access to the large Belfast population without having to pay the appropriate rates?

  • hgreen

    Indeed. The era of large out of town shopping is coming to an end as we realise the damage it has done to our towns and cities.

  • Brian O’Neill

    At the time there was a chap on TalkBack who was a consultant to John Lewis. He said it was their policy to only do town centre stores, so not sure why they are so against being in Belfast City centre.

    A google tells me they only have one out of town location:
    http://www.shopping-centre.co.uk/news/archivestory.php/aid/5549/John_Lewis_to_open_first_out-of-town_department_store.html

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Maybe it’s time to reconsider city centre shopping in general?

    For example, most people who go for a heavy shop wish to take their car.
    Belfast simply can’t cope with this.

    Why not try and separate the shopping aspects?

    For example, if you want Tesco-Extra, PC World, Planet-Widescreen-TV, Death-By-Discount-opolis then head to Sprucefield or suchlike.

    At the same time, reduce the capacity of Belfast city centre for these big store types, reduce the number of car parks, reduce the rates and make it more of a work & play city.

    Lots of offices, hotels, bars, cafes, wee shops and things to do instead of the ‘ANYWHERE UK’ format that has been rolled out across the land:

    “My city is better than yours!”

    “Why?!”

    “Because it has TWO TK Maxx, FIVE Nandos and THREE Zara shops!”

    “WOW! Well, yes, for now it’s better but next year we’re going to have THREE TK, 6 Nandos and FOUR Zara shops, so then WE will be the better city!”

    “Touche!!!”

  • Old Mortality

    That’s not true Brian. They are in some of the largest out-of-town shopping centres: Trafford and Bluewater. They’ve been in Brent Cross for years which is very distant from central London. They obviously weren’t offered a suitable site in Belfast, probably because existing retailers didn’t want them anywhere. In the meantime, I think they’ve become a bit too upmarket for NI.

  • hgreen

    “They obviously weren’t offered a suitable site in Belfast, probably because existing retailers didn’t want them anywhere”

    Any evidence to support this suggestion? I also wasn’t aware that retailers could block potential competitors. Most would welcome the additional footfall that a new JL would bring.

  • Cináed mac Artri

    Perhaps its a rates/infrastructure thing?

    John Lewis focused on Sprucefield to gather trade north and south. It is a super run up the road now from the south. That extra tramp into Belfast is a killer, not to mention the city’s road and parking challenges.

    Belfast City commercial rates are high given the cityscape you’re buying into. As someone who does business there it’s a downer (and unless it’s changed will put the brakes on a rejuvenated City of small shops and niche businesses).

  • WindowLean

    I wasn’t aware that our lives are not complete because we do not have a John Lewis outlet.

  • notimetoshine

    There shouldn’t be any more development in or around Sprucefield until they sort that bloody road out, bad enough without another flagship store entering the fray.

    The author here seems to be insinuating that local councils and other relevant authorities shouldn’t have any say in where business decides to build, or have any concern for what development might do to their areas. I find this rather strange, as the whole Sprucefield development could be used as a folk tale on the need for sensible planning policy. After all it’s location with the main arterial route into Belfast running through it doesn’t seem like the most sensible of decisions.

    Having said all that, I hope John Lewis does come to NI and I find the organised opposition from Belfast retail to be disgraceful, bordering on unfair trading. In the US I’m sure there would be grounds for an anti trust investigation.

  • notimetoshine

    Well more fool the towns and cities for not moving with the times. Lack of innovation, a fear of change and an unearned sense of entitlement stopped them from bettering their offering, and people voted with their feet. Too much og a sense of protectionism and quasi monopolisation amongst city centre advocates.

  • Old Mortality

    Not if you’re attempting to sell more expensive home furnishings, domestic appliances, clothing etc. Don’t forget the ‘never knowingly undersold’ motto. In other words, if you want to buy something fairly expensive and are a lazy shopper (which most people in NI are) you will go to JL because you can be fairly sure it won’t be cheaper elsewhere.

  • Enda

    Lol, you really have a chip on your shoulder. So a Lidl shopper is a racist shopper now?

  • Brian O’Neill

    I have no experience of their stores. But London and Manchester are huge, everything is very distant from the centre 😉

  • Brian O’Neill

    If you are a lazy shopper why not just go one step further and order it from their website and they will deliver it right to your house.

  • Skibo

    Tara I think you are missing the issue that there are customers that use Lisburn and Belfast centre that will not darken the door of John Lewis and likewise John Lewis customers who wouldn’t be seen dead in Lisburn.
    the John Lewis fiasco came about because of Belfast and the greater Lisburn fighting over who would get the store. Belfast totally ignored the fact that John Lewis said it would not go to Belfast.
    McCoeys again demanding everything!

  • Skibo

    Have you visited the Sprucefield centre. The links are perfect. It is much easier to access than either Lisburn centre or Belfast centre and there is ample free parking.

  • billypilgrim1

    Indeed.

    It’s. Just. A. Shop.

  • Tara Brooks

    So – John Lewis stamp their feet, say they don’t want to go to Belfast, so we should just give in and let them put their store wherever the f*** they want regardless of its impact on the existing infrastructure? John Lewis are located in city centre locations in Birmingham, Manchester, London, Glasgow, Edinburgh. Why shouldn’t they follow the rules here like everyone else. And – who knows – maybe a John Lewis in Sprucefield wouldn’t rip the heart out of Lisburn but I wouldn’t put money on it

  • hgreen

    You haven’t really thought this through have you? How is it innovative building an out of town shopping center and offering free parking? Why should tax payers subsidise businesses who want to build on out of town green field sites when ample city center sites are available?

    Building a JL store in Sprucefield now will have a detrimental effect on Belfast Dublin traffic. I doubt JL will be pay for the necessary road upgrade though.

  • Oriel27

    Skibo, thats simply not correct. I work in Lisburn. The links both to Sprucefield and Lisburn are not fit for the volume of traffic. Put a JL store there and it will be crazy. The Norths Infrastructure is old and dated and of another time.

    Now if they put the JL store on the old Maze site, and build a link into west of lisburn (Knockmore rd) that would work. West Lisburn is a black stop for updated road connectivity.

  • Skibo

    Tara I would be confident in saying the people employed in Sprucefield are glad you are not in charge of planning.
    The investment by John Lewis will be massive if it ever happens. As far as I can see, they were hoping to catch the majority of shoppers they can along the east coast of Ireland. Sprucefield was optimum for this.
    Short sightedness by both Belfast and Lisburn.

  • Skibo

    Getting into Sprucefield is far simpler than getting into Lisburn centre. Parking is far superior. The links could be better but the rear of Sprucefield goes straight onto the link road between the M1 and the A1. The main entrance admittedly comes onto a busy roundabout linking Lisburn with M1 and the A1. As one who comes from west of the Bann, I can assure they are superior to anything we have.

  • Skibo

    Having been in John Lewis in the UK, I can assure you it is not just “a shop”

  • Surveyor

    Say for the sake of argument that JL announced they would be opening a new flagship store in the the centre of Newry.

    Would that placate the Belfast councillors who are against out of town shopping or would they still be annoyed because it wasn’t going into the centre of Belfast?

  • Surveyor

    As I mentioned in another post I would indeed be very interested in the reaction of the Belfast bigwigs if JL ever did decide to build a store in the centre of Newry.

  • Surveyor

    Do you live in Belfast Tara? What if JL decided to build a store in the centre of Derry or Newry for example. Would you still have any objections, and if so why?

  • billypilgrim1

    IT’S.
    JUST.
    A.
    SHOP!

  • Zig70

    What do they sell that I can’t buy here and now? I thought loads of local shops had struggled and shutdown in these auster times. Seems very unbrexit to bring in more foreign merchandisers and send more local business’ to the wall

  • Tara Brooks

    Yes I live in Belfast. No I wouldn’t object to a JL store in Derry or Newry provided they followed the planning rules

  • Tara Brooks

    You’ll not convince me of your argument and I’ll not convince you of mine, best to agree to disagree

  • OneNI

    I tend to the view its just a shop – doesnt create any new jobs just displaces others.
    However a couple of important facts:
    JL could have built a store over a decade ago but for one small thing – they wanted it for free. Hence the inclusion of a Mall of 24 shops. Shops by the way that were smaller than that allowed by Planning Policy (fo sound reasons) – hence the endless arguments.
    Two, in recent years JL has focused on developing John Lewis at Home a smaller format that would easily fit into Royal Exchange (although I doubt the developers will give it to them for free)

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    This is possibly the most useful reply I’ve ever received on SO’T

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Piri-Piri sauce – Apartheid’s greatest accomplishment!!!

  • hgreen

    Then put the JL store in Lisburn town centre.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    You’re right, i was thinking of Nandos specifically.

  • Brian Walker

    NI customers can order from the website.. It works well…I admit a visit to a London or other GB branch helps to sus out the stock and the personal service is very good, recalling the best of the old days everywhere. The JL ethos provides the best possible argument for a job for life, now so often derided in our still very unequal society.. .

  • Trevor Kirkwood

    the fact is if john lewis opened in lisburn there would be no room for any one else the store would have been one and a half times the size of castle court, the roads in and around the town cant cope at the minute never mind more traffic after the traffic grid lock in belfast last week you can see why john lewis have always said it is sprucefield or nowhere i take you want those jobs nowhere rather than lisburn then ?

  • Trevor Kirkwood

    it now seems the sdlp minipulted the rules ? wonder who funds the sdlp ?? some of the sprucefield objectors maybe ??