Watford MP visits John Lewis HQ to hand in petition to save store

The MP for Watford has paid a visit to John Lewis' headquarters to hand in a petition calling for the department store in the town to be saved from closure.

Dean Russell went to the Westminster office on Wednesday afternoon to present a petition which has more than 11,500 signatures.

Mr Russell hopes the chairman of John Lewis, Sharon White, will reconsider the company's decision to close the shop.

The creator of the petition, Caroline Sampson, from Bushey, received a call from Mr Russell to ask if he could hand the petition in.

Mrs Sampson agreed, on the condition it was a collective initiative with Watford's mayor, Peter Taylor.

Watford's MP has also written to Ms White.

Mr Russell said in the letter that if the decision to close John Lewis cannot be reversed, would the retailer consider keeping a small presence in the town.

He added: "I feel confident in saying that the strength of feeling about the loss of John Lewis in Watford has united the town in disappointment about the decision, especially as this has come at a time when many were looking forward to returning to the high street after a difficult few months for us all.

"I hope upon receiving this petition, the Partnership will truly take on board just how deeply saddened people in Watford and beyond are to the closure of the John Lewis store, especially given the historic connection to our town."

He ended his letter by saying he hoped to speak to directly with Ms White.

Earlier this week, Watford Borough Council confirmed to the Watford Labour group leader, Councillor Nigel Bell, that a meeting has been arranged between the mayor and Ms White.

Mrs Sampson said: "I am delighted that our MP is taking this seriously and representing views of constituents. He and Mr Taylor have both been very supportive and done their very best to promote the views of the people of Watford.

"I really hope the chairman of John Lewis will read the petition and take on board local comments, and if they can't keep John Lewis in its entirety, at least keep some provision in the town."

John Lewis announced on July 9 that the Watford store had closed permanently, alongside seven other shops.

But the only major department stores to close were in Watford and Birmingham.

John Lewis said the eight stores to close were "financially challenged" prior to the pandemic.

Watford's store shut even though it emerged that John Lewis has a virtual freehold on its store in the town meaning it pays no rent.