John Lewis: Sprucefield or Dublin?

9 October 2008

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The JLP debate has been going on for far too long: Sprucefield or not? That is the question Westfield wants answered, and it wants an answer fast. Westfield is the Australian-owned company behind the multi-million pound deal for an extension to Northern Ireland’s only regional shopping centre at Sprucefield.

John Lewis Partnership is the proposed anchor tenant and it is very, indeed extremely, keen to open shop at Sprucefield. Having examined many other options in Northern Ireland, it has firmly decided that Sprucefield is the place it wants to be.
Sprucefield is ideally situated with an excellent road network and easy access for shoppers from both the north and south of the island. Further down the road is ‘the outlet’ and it too continues to attract shoppers from all over Ireland. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that, should JLP be given planning permission to develop store operations at Sprucefield, it will be equally successful.

John Lewis, regarded as the bellwether of the high street, already has 27 stores throughout the UK, and it is keen to enter the potentially extremely lucrative Irish marketplace. Gareth Thomas, a JLP director, is particularly keen to see a John Lewis outlet in his native Northern Ireland and has stated unequivocally that, if they do not get the “green light” for their proposed development, they will definitely head south of the border and set up shop in Dublin.

This would, in my opinion, be very bad news for traders in Lisburn who continue to object to the proposal on the grounds that the 17 other units included in the planned development would result in a mass exodus of shoppers from Lisburn City Centre to Sprucefield.

What traders are forgetting is that when Marks & Spencer commenced trading at Sprucefield, the traders in Lisburn responded by revamping Bow Street Mall in the then town (now city), thus managing to hold on to their customers in spite of their initial fears and protestations.

The writing is on the wall; JLP has nailed its colours to the mast, if it doesn’t get the go-ahead at an early juncture, it is most definitely southern-bound, faster even than that ubiquitous train. Watch this space.



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