Thursday, February 22, 2024

‘I’m devastated it’s closing’: London shoppers say farewell to Fenwick

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More than 130 years after it opened, the flagship Fenwick department store in central London will close its doors for the last time on Saturday.

The four-storey shop in New Bond Street, Mayfair, is shutting after the retailer – which is owned by more than 40 descendants of John James Fenwick, who founded the company with a single store in Newcastle in 1882 – sold the property to developers for £430m.

“I’m actually devastated that it’s closing,” said Rosie Grant, 62, a costume designer, as she visited the store this week to give it “one final, sad, farewell”.

“It just has an elegance to it that you don’t get in other shops. It’s more understated, it’s classic; it has things you actually need. You feel more at home than you do in a behemoth like Selfridges.”

She has been coming to Fenwick at least twice a month, sometimes three times, for as long as she can remember. “It always had a little something – a hat, a ribbon, a bow – that I could add to a costume to make it that little bit better,” Grant said.

Rosie Grant, a costume designer and Fenwick regular. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Grant would even take the people she was designing for into the store to try on designs. “They had a nice discreet fitting room where we could try things,” she said. Those she has taken into that fitting room over the years include the Olivier award-winning actor and Sherlock star Lindsay Duncan, and Dame Judi Dench.

This trip, however, Grant left Fenwick empty-handed. “There was nothing I actually wanted,” she said of the store’s “archive sale” that promised up to 70% off. “There’s not much in there, most of the floors have been cleared out already, it’s a bit eerie.”

Sali, also 62, had a much more successful shopping trip. “I got so many bargains,” she said, opening two large dark-green Fenwick paper shopping bags (the bags are listed on eBay for £8 each). “I got a very cute little straw-coloured cap that was reduced from £210 to £100, and this [a jewelled headband] for £50 – it was £195.

“I am so sad that it’s closing. I have been coming twice a year for 35 years. It’s an institution. But money runs this place, and I guess money talks.”

The New Bond Street store, circa 1910. Photograph: Chronicle/Alamy

The Fenwick family put the New Bond Street store, which opened in 1891, up for sale in late 2022, hoping it would fetch up to £500m. It was sold for £430m to Lazari Investments, a property development firm founded by the late Cyprus-born British billionaire Chris Lazari.

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Leonidas Lazari, one of his children, said previously: “Our group acquired the famous Fenwick department store that has been operating for 134 years, as well as the Dolce & Gabbana store on Bond Street in London. The corner site consists of six buildings and is considered one of the most attractive sites in Europe. The site includes 80 metres of exceptional frontage on Bond Street and Brook Street, with five upper levels.”

The Lazaris have hired Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners architecture practice to “rejuvenate” the site and create an almost 40%-larger building with a “world-class retail accommodation that is future-proof” on the ground and first floors with “best in class” offices above.

Foster + Partners describe the plan as a “deep retrofit” that will include the demolition of parts of the buildings – and while the facades will be kept, they will be raised significantly. Floorspace will increase by 38%. The building is not listed but is within the Mayfair conservation area.

Part of the store will be taken over temporarily by a charity pop-ups. From 9 February, the Charity Super.Mkt group, which comprises five charities including Shelter, Traid, Shaw Trust and Havens Hospices, will inhabit the former handbag and accessories section.

Described as the pre-loved department store, the multi-charity shop will open for a fortnight. It will also host events with DJs at weekends as it trades alongside luxury outlets including Dior, Hermès and Emporio Armani.

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