The site of a historic department store is on the market after a controversial closure

The former John Lewis retail unit at Vangarde Shopping Park on the outskirts of York is on the market.

A PRIME retail unit in York that controversially closed in 2021 is on the market.

The John Lewis Partnership has appointed Savills to market the former John Lewis department store in Vangarde Shopping Park on the outskirts of the city.

The closure of the popular store caused a public outcry, triggering the launch of a petition to try to save it, set up by one of its loyal customers which attracted 1,100 signatories in 24 hours and quickly exceeded 5,500 signatures.

York Press: Crowds queue outside John Lewis at the opening of their new store at the opening of Vangarde Shopping Park.  Photo: Garry Atkinson.

York Press: Crowds queue outside John Lewis at the opening of their new store at the opening of Vangarde Shopping Park. Photo: Garry Atkinson.

Crowds line up outside John Lewis at the store opening when it opens at Vangarde Shopping Park

There have also been calls from York City Council, local politicians, business leaders and others for it to remain open.

Now the building has been put on the market and is available by way of assignment – where a tenant takes full responsibility for the lease until it expires – or subletting where they can take part of the building .

Totaling approximately 128,000 square feet over two floors, the top-level unit also housed a Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Bean Cafe when it opened.

In addition to its cocoa-inspired menu, the chocolate makers of the luxury confectionery brand made small quantities of truffles on site.

It was only the second cocoa cafe in the John Lewis empire after the first opened in Edinburgh shortly before.

There was also a Place To Eat cafe on the first floor.

The former John Lewis site is part of the Vangarde shopping and leisure complex with neighboring occupants including M&S, Next, Cineworld and Hollywood Bowl, with Monks Cross Shopping Park, Sainsbury’s and Asda also nearby.

Ian Hare, out-of-town retail manager at Savills Leeds, said: “This is a particularly exciting opportunity to acquire a very significant out-of-town retail unit in a destination popular retail and leisure business.

“The site also lends itself well to a variety of alternative uses, subject to relevant planning permissions, giving it significant potential.”

News that John Lewis was planning to close was first reported in March when the chain announced it was rebalancing its holdings after posting a loss of £517million in 2020 and seeing a major shift online in the customer buying habits.

He then confirmed the permanent closure in June following consultation with York Partners – the 209 staff employed at the store which opened in Vangarde in 2014.

The John Lewis Partnership’s decision to close shop in York and other cities follows its struggles to deal with the fallout from the pandemic.

At the time of the shutdown, John Lewis said it had conducted extensive research to identify and respond to new customer buying habits in different parts of the country.

As a result, the chain said it could “no longer profitably support the John Lewis store in York”.

A spokesperson previously said: “The research means we will also invest in providing greater access to John Lewis by improving our Click & Collect service, as well as piloting the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in our Waitrose stores.

“All of these stores were in financial difficulty before the pandemic.”