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

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

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

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

Crowds queue outside John Lewis at the opening of the store when it first opened at the Vangarde Shopping Park

There were also calls from City of York Council, local politicians, business leaders and others for it to stay open.

Now the building has been brought to the market, and is available by way of assignment  - where a tenant takes on full responsibility for the lease until it expires - or sub-lease where they might take part of the building.

Totalling about 128,000 sq ft over two floors, the high-profile unit was also home to a Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Bean Cafe when it opened.

As well as its cocoa-inspired menu, the luxury confectionery brand's chocolatiers made small batches 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 retail and leisure complex at Vangarde with neighbouring occupiers 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 director at Savills Leeds, said: “This is a particularly exciting opportunity to acquire a highly prominent, out of town retail unit in a desirable retail and leisure destination.

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

News that John Lewis planned to close was first announced in March when the chain announced that it was rebalancing its estate after recording a £517 million loss in 2020 and seeing a major online shift in customers’ shopping habits.

It then confirmed the permanent closure in June following a consultation with York Partners - the 209 members of staff employed at the store which opened at Vangarde in 2014.

The John Lewis Partnership's decision to shut up shop in York, and in other towns and cities, followed its struggles to deal with the fall-out from the pandemic.

At the time of the closure, John Lewis said it had carried out extensive research to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country.

As a result, the chain said it could 'no longer profitably sustain the John Lewis shop in York'.

A spokesman previously said: "The research means we will also invest in providing more access to John Lewis through improving our Click & Collect service, as well as trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in our Waitrose stores.

"All of these shops were financially challenged prior to the pandemic."