The news of the closure of the flagship John Lewis store at Grand Central was met with widespread shock from shoppers and city chiefs.
The £35 million store opened in 2015 as part of the much anticipated Grand Central £750m regeneration project – heralding a bright new shopping era for Birmingham.
After John Lewis first dropped the closure bombshell in July, Grand Central owners Hammerson said they would be “exploring future alternatives” for the space.
A spokesperson for Bullring and Grand Central said: “Grand Central’s location in New Street Station attracts over 20m visitors a year as part of the busiest train station outside of London… the strong city centre and high footfall location of the current John Lewis space lends itself to future alternative uses, which we will explore.”
Over on discussion site Reddit, people have already started speculating what could replace the sprawling site.
At the start of a thread Reddit user u/Turtly07 said: “What do you guys think will take the place of this huge store? It sounds like if John Lewis was struggling, then I can’t think of another department store that can succeed there.”
Here are Reddit reader comments on what they think should replace the store.
NotABrummie was the first to give their suggestion posting: “As a slightly weird longshot, I’d suggest an IKEA. Either that or it’ll be split up into a load of different shops.”
Helloreceiver added: “I really hope so, especially with the Cov town centre one gone.”
Imitiaz90 agreed saying: “I like the IKEA idea, if any company can use the space with their offerings and diversity, it is them.”
However H0vitO dismissed the suggestion replying: “There was an IKEA shop in the town centre before and it didn’t do too well.”
Three_shoes piped up with: “Laser Quest.”
The indoor laser tag chain offers games for children & adults in multi-level environment so the former John Lewis would definitely be a suitable venue.
This idea was enthusiastically received by stalinsnicerbrother who responded: “**** yeah”.
It would liven up Saturdays in town, that’s for sure.
‘A new Pallasades of low rent shops’
TheKingMonkey wondered whether Grand Central would become what it initially replaced – a new Pallasades full of the same low rent shops
The user said: “I thought they were bluffing to try and get a rent reduction or something. The Debenhams in the Bullring announced it was closing permanently yet it reopened, I figured they’d done some kind of deal. I still wouldn’t be surprised if the John Lewis reopens, but if it doesn’t then I think there’s gonna be a huge empty space there and I’m curious if it will just end up being filled with low rent shops like the Pallasades was.”
We all have fond memories of this store at the old Bull Ring centre back in the 1990s.
The discount women’s fashion retailer Mark One predated Primark – with 125 shops across the UK, including Brum.
Boris-B*****ov said:”I reckon Mark One is gonna make a comeback.”
‘A food court’
As well as warming to the the IKEA idea, Imitiaz90 also suggested a giant food court adding to Grand Central’s already pretty hefty culinary offering.
This would make the complex a primarily foodie destination – something many people unofficially see it as anyway.
“Aside from IKEA, maybe creating a food court? Grand Central has become a food hub of sorts so maybe go along with that and open the store to independents and offer the plots at 50% rates to help create successful businesses.
“I would stray away from a large department store taking up the spot. It’s tempting to have a big brand but if it isn’t a store like IKEA then something which showcases the best of Birmingham, not what big brand is occupying space.”
User Universalquestioning also said it would make a good food court.
‘Interesting independent shops like the good old Bullring old days’
Mr Strange said: “The old bullring was full of interesting low-rent shops. I hated that it was pulled down and replaced by bland high-end tat shops.
“Perhaps the cycle will repeat itself, and we’ll get some interesting retailers moving in.”
Nixie9 added:”I used to love independent shops in Birmingham, it was our greatest asset, then the bullring happened and all that and new street got all gentrified with these chains.
“But the last couple of years we are seeing a real return to independents. I’d love if that invaded grand central/bull ring too.”
‘A giant Wilko’
Homeware and housegoods chain Wilko was also a popular choice.
SquireBev said: “We could do with a Wilko…” This led imthebozz to comment:”Omg when I moved to Brum and found out there wasn’t a Wilkos here I almost moved back!”
There are four Japan Centres in and around London but none around the Midlands.
The chain offers ‘the largest selection of authentic Japanese food, drink and lifestyle products in Europe’.
Considering John Lewis and Grand Central’s back entrance marks the official start of Brum Chinatown – when an array of East Asia cuisine, this suggestion is not as leftfield as it might initially sound.
“I’d love to see a Japan Centre in Birmingham. I always go to the one in London whenever I am down there, and they have a lot of imported stuff you don’t see in many other stores. It’s a little disappointing that they never really branched out from the capital.
“Plus, if they followed suit with the London Store and had their eating area and fresh food to go sections, the John Lewis store would be a great place for them, as it could be another option for people wanting something to eat before/after their journey, or for those wanting a snack for while they are on the train.”
Majormantastic said he’d prefer “Wickes or B&M”.
‘A massive rock climbing centre’
stoicforlife said: “They should turn it into a massive rock climbing centre, it would probably be the biggest in europe and could host international competitions.”
Freezingweazel reasoned: “As cool as it would be I imagine the rent would be way to high for something like that. They always seem to be on the outskirts of town in run-down looking warehouses.”