Today, news broke that the Knight and Lee store will close in July this year following a meeting of all staff at the store this morning.
Cllr Ben Dowling, Cabinet Member for Planning, Regeneration and Economic Development at Portsmouth City Council said:
"We're very disappointed to learn today that the John Lewis Partnership will be closing the Knight & Lee store in Southsea in July. We are obviously very concerned about the impact this will have both on the staff and Southsea's retail offer and will be meeting with businesses to plan how we can minimise the impact on the area and turn this sad news into an opportunity.
We extended an offer to the company to meet with them and discuss whether there was anything that the council could do which may have helped them to review their decision but it is clear that the site has been sold."
Council Leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said:
"It is disappointing that John Lewis did not have any prior discussions with the council regarding their plans, however, we remain willing to discuss with them any future opportunity which would see them retain a presence in the city."
The Council understands that the sale has been made to THAT Group.
Statement from THAT Group:
"THAT Group is pleased to confirm that it has purchased the freehold interest of the Knight & Lee department store from the John Lewis Partnership. Whilst it is regrettable that a pillar of the local retail community and a key landmark in the Southsea retail offer will be closing, we are very excited at the prospect of converting and restoring such a well-loved building into something suitable for the future. We will not be announcing today our exact plans for the building, but these will follow in a short time, as part of a thorough and sensitive public and neighbour consultation process. We have already worked in the City of Portsmouth so we know it well, and we have always found the Council (and other stakeholders) to be welcoming of our investment and open to new ideas . Southsea is a fantastic location to put into practice some of our latest mixed development ideas and we look forward to sharing these with local people in due course."
The city council has been in contact with THAT Group today and are arranging a meeting with them before the end of the month to discuss their plans for the building.