YORK’S John Lewis store was "financially challenged" before the pandemic and is unlikely to see a significant improvement, said a spokesman.

The John Lewis Partnership and landlord of the Vangarde Shopping Park site have held talks since the chain announced York was one of eight shops earmarked for closure.

City of York Council’s executive member for economy and strategic planning, Cllr Andrew Waller, has also asked the high street giant to explain what options it is exploring to retain a presence in the city.

The chain, which opened its York outlet in 2014, is rebalancing its estate after recording a £517 million loss in 2020 and seeing a major online shift in customers’ shopping habits.

A petition set up to try and save John Lewis York and the 209 jobs at risk has topped 4,650 names.

A partnership spokesman said: “We are extremely grateful for the support our York shop has received - the strength of feeling underlines what a difficult decision proposing to close has been.

“We have had regular and recent conversations with the landlord, but as these are private discussions I’m afraid it would not be appropriate for us to comment further. We have also informed the council and local politicians about the announcement.

“The shop was financially challenged prior to the pandemic. Given the significant shift to online shopping in recent years - and our belief that this trend will not materially reverse - we do not think the performance of the store can be substantially improved, despite the efforts of our partners working there. However, we will discuss the proposal for closure in consultation with our John Lewis York partners [staff].”

Andy Simpson, from Heslington, York, set up the petition, urging ‘John Lewis & Partners, York council, the Government and landlord to swiftly work together and explore an alternative to permanent closure’.

Andy said: “It’s wonderful to see how important the York John Lewis Store is to the residents of the city and further afield. We’ve had hundreds of comments on the petition page emphasising that closure would indeed be such a huge loss to the city’s economic growth post-pandemic.

“I have contacted the Vangarde owners and John Lewis with a summary of all the main points the signatories have put forward so that everyone can be assured their voices are heard.”

People who have given reasons for backing the petition say it is a valuable part of York’s retail offer and its closure would be ‘a massive loss to York and the Vangarde shopping centre’.

Cllr Waller said: “I am currently awaiting further contacts with representatives from the local John Lewis branch as well as Vangarde shopping centre. Whilst discussions on the future of the store are progressing, my main objective currently is to ensure that employment is retained in the city.

“I have urged the John Lewis partnership to explain the options they are exploring to retain a presence in the city, and I have remained in contact with residents campaigning and petitioning on behalf of employees and customers of John Lewis to retain the York store.”

The petition is at http://chng.it/zTDYMwW7