UPMARKET department store John Lewis could be coming to Brighton after acquiring a prime city centre site.

The partnership has bought the current home of Boots in 129-133 North Street, Brighton.

John Lewis confirmed it now owns the site – but said its long-held ambition to have a presence in the city was a “considerable way off”. A business leader said the move could be the most exciting retail development since Churchill Square opened some 15 years ago.

It is understood John Lewis has been searching for a suitable site in the city for more than a decade. A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that John Lewis PLC is now the owner of 129-133 North Street in Brighton. This will not impact the current tenants and the businesses will continue to trade as normal for the foreseeable future.

“We do have an ambition to eventually have a presence in Brighton, but plans for this are a considerable way off.”

The business is owned by staff, or partners, and is part of the same group as Waitrose. There are currently 43 John Lewis stores in the country, with one currently being built in Horsham.

Tony Mernagh, executive chairman of the economic partnership, said: “John Lewis has been interested in Brighton for the last 15 years but they are a company that can afford to take its time deciding where to locate.

“There have been various discussions with them by various developers over the years about various sites in Brighton, in Hove and on the outskirts of the city but none have gone beyond the talking stage.”

Gavin Stewart manager of the Brighton Business Improvement District, added: “It’s great news that John Lewis have a long awaited foothold in the city and we will be keeping a close eye on how things develop. By increasing their property portfolio in this prime city centre site, it gives Brighton the seal of approval from one of Britain’s biggest retailers.”

Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, chairman of the economic, development and culture committee on Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “This is a tremendous vote of confidence in the city and reflects the work that the council has been doing to position Brighton and Hove as a regional shopping destination.”


My say on move – Katy Rice

The nearest John Lewis is in Chichester, almost 30 miles away.

Brighton and Hove has been a city since 2000, the same year Hanningtons, dubbed the Harrods of Brighton, closed.

Since then, this cultural hot spot has become a London-by-the-sea, with middle-class professionals migrating in their hundreds. So the market is there for John Lewis, its co-operative ethos – each employee is a partner in the business receiving a share in the profits – is acceptable to Brighton’s ethically minded shoppers.

John Lewis’s presence will confirm Brighton and Hove’s status as the capital of the South Coast.