THE people of Edinburgh and many others far beyond were stunned to learn that legendary department store Jenners is to close in May, with the loss of 200 jobs.

Often called the “Harrods of the north”, Jenners is a symbol of Edinburgh, with its famous building at the east end of Princes Street often used in depictions of the capital. The upmarket store has been going for 183 years, always based at the corner of Princes Street and St David Street. To describe it as an Edinburgh icon would be to understate its importance in the capital.


IN common with other High Street department stores, Jenners was suffering from under-investment and competition by online retailers. After being taken over by House of Fraser in 2005 – it gave them the principal stores at either end of Princes Street – Jenners suffered badly when Frasers went into administration in 2018.

The closure has come about really because of a dispute between two men. Mike Ashley – owner of Sports Direct which bought Frasers out of administration, and who is a former major Rangers shareholder who owns Newcastle United – wanted a reduction in rent and other cost-saving measures. The building’s owner, Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen – who owns a large swathe of Scotland – was prepared to offer some deals to Ashley, but it was not enough to meet Fraser Group’s strategy of reducing the cost of its real estate.

The trouble for Povlsen is that Fraser Group retains the branding of Jenners, and that is why Jenners has to close down or be relocated to another premises – which Ashley has shown no sign of doing.


JENNERS was Scotland’s first independent department store, opened in 1838 as Kennington & Jenner, the latter a linen draper. It was a fine building, but a disastrous fire gutted it in 1892. Despite his retirement from the firm, Charles Jenner, having outlived Kennington, ordered an even finer and much larger building on the site, complete with lifts and electric lighting. Jenner died in 1893 and did not live to see his eponymous store re-open in 1895, superbly designed by the architect William Hamilton Beattie. It was extended into Rose Street and given a Royal Warrant in 1911, building a reputation for quality over the course of the century.

READ MORE: Jenners to close with loss of 200 jobs after trading for 183 years

Run by the Douglas-Miller family, Jenners was visited by the Queen to mark its 150th anniversary in 1988, and the building was given an extensive refurbishment in 2002.

Jenners has featured in fiction, documentaries and film alike, and has long been recognised as a landmark in the capital, becoming an A-listed building in 1970. But it is the mystique and magic of the name which has kept generations of Edinburgh people coming to the store, including the famous “matrons of Morningside” who would gather for one of the store’s famous teas.

Put it this way, the Edinburgh Evening News yesterday gave the Jenners story its entire front page with the headline “End of an Era”. And it is the end, no matter what happens now.


POVLSEN bought the building for a sum in excess of £50 million in 2017. Readers may recall that the Danish businessman lost three of his children in the devastating terrorist bombing of the Shangri-La Hotel in Sri Lanka at Easter 2019.

He has long had a deep love for Scotland and has bought up an estimated 221,000 acres of this country, making him Scotland’s largest private individual landowner.

Anders Krogh Vogdrup, director of Povlsen’s group AAA United, which owns the Jenners building, said: “Frasers has made the decision that it does not wish to continue in occupation. This will see the end of the 16-year association between House of Fraser and this building, but not of the 180 years of Jenners department store.”

Vogdrup told BBC Scotland that Povlsen had bought the Jenners building “out of passion for its architecture and history”.

He said: “We have been sad to read on social media that we are to close the department store, as that is not the case. We fought to keep the current tenant and we are now in advanced talks with other partners.”

Vogdrup said their “first priority” was to keep it as a department store, while there were also plans to turn some unused parts of the building into a hotel. He said: “The Jenners department store and building is the jewel in the crown of Edinburgh. We are not turning it into a hotel. It will remain a department store.”

He also expects the Jenners name will remain on the side of the building, but it would be difficult to see Mike Ashley allowing that to happen unless Povlsen can persuade him to sell the branding rights.

Fraser Group also owns the Jenners outlet at the Lomond Shores complex in Balloch on Loch Lomondside, and nothing has been said about its future.


WELL, it’s certainly not a good time for Princes Street. The original Frasers store is under redevelopment, Debenhams has closed and now the Jenners name is going. Povlsen has very deep pockets, however, and something will emerge on the site. Meanwhile, the St James Quarter will replace the eyesore that was the St James Centre, with a development that may not be to everyone’s architectural taste but which is rapidly nearing completion. The

£1 billion project – the largest private retail development outside of London last year – will have 85 shops, 30 restaurants, a hotel and two cinemas. And between it and Princes Street will be the new concert hall being built at a cost of nearly £50m, which will house the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. So not an end, just a new beginning.