The owner of the Jenners building in Edinburgh has promised that it will remain a department store – despite the departure of its current tenant, the House of Fraser.
Frasers Group said it would cease trading at the site on 3 May, with the loss of 200 jobs.
The building is owned by Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen.
A company spokesman said it would continue as a store and that “advanced” talks were taking place with operators.
The Jenners building has occupied a prime location on Princes Street for 183 years.
It was bought by Mr Povlsen – who is one of Scotland’s biggest landowners – in 2017, reportedly for £53m.
The store is currently operated by the Frasers Group, which owns the commercial rights to the Jenners trading name.
It said it would be quitting the site in May after the two sides were unable to come to an agreement.
A Frasers spokesman claimed that the landlord had not been able to “work mutually on a fair agreement”.
He said this had led to “the loss of 200 jobs and a vacant site for the foreseeable future, with no immediate plans.
“Our commitment to our Frasers strategy remains but landlords and retailers need to work together in a fair manner, especially when all stores are closed.”
However, Anders Krogh Vogdrup – the director of AAA United, which owns the Jenners building – said it had given Frasers a substantial rent reduction and rent-free periods to cover the lockdowns.
“Frasers has made the decision that it does not wish to continue in occupation,” he said.
“This will see the end of the 16-year association between House of Fraser and this building, but not of the 180 years of Jenners department store.”
Mr Vogdrup told BBC Scotland that it had bought the Jenners building “out of passion for its architecture and history”.
“We have been sad to read on social media that we are to close the department store, as that is not the case,” he said.
“We fought to keep the current tenant and we are now in advanced talks with other partners.”
‘Jewel in the crown’
He said their “first priority” was to keep it as a department store, while there were also plans to turn some unused parts of the building into a hotel.
“The Jenners department store and building is the jewel in the crown of Edinburgh,” he added.
“We are not turning it into a hotel. It will remain a department store.”
He also expects the Jenners name will remain on the side of the building.
Mr Povlsen, whose parents set up Scandinavian fashion company Bestseller, is believed to be worth £4.5bn. As well as owning Bestseller he is a major shareholder in online retailer Asos.
He has previously revealed plans to use parts of the Princes Street building for a hotel, with the rest reserved for retail.
The plans included the restoration of the building’s Victorian facade and central atrium, which is a three-storey, top-lit grand saloon. A rooftop restaurant and bar would overlook nearby St Andrew Square.
Mr Vogdrup said the plans to refurbish the store were now on hold due to the current economic climate.
Jenners: Retail royalty
Jenners has dominated Edinburgh’s main shopping thoroughfare since the mid-19th Century.
It was opened in 1838 by local drapers Charles Jenner and Charles Kennington, who found themselves out of work after being sacked for taking a day off to go to the races in Musselburgh.
Initially called Kennington & Jenner, the boutique store proved popular for keeping the people of Edinburgh in fine silks and linen, which could normally only be found in London.
By 1890 the shop had changed name to Charles Jenner & Co and had expanded to adjoining buildings, making it one of the biggest stores in Scotland.
But just two years later fire destroyed the shop and ambitious plans – backed by the local council – were launched for a new look Jenners.
Celebrated architect William Hamilton Beattie, who also designed the Balmoral and Carlton Hotel, was brought in for the redesign.
Charles Jenner died in 1893 before the work was completed in 1895.
In 1911 the popular store was given a Royal Warrant.
After struggling in the the 21st Century, the Jenners brand was sold to rivals House of Fraser for £46m in 2005.
In 2018, House of Fraser was bought by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct group.