• Derek W Gardiner

We will mourn the loss of Aberdeen's High Street.


John Lewis, Aberdeen (Alamy)

By Derek W Gardiner

The sad news this week that the Aberdeen branch of the John Lewis Partnership will not reopen when lockdown ends on 26th April has come as a shock to many including the 260 people who will lose their jobs with the company. It will join other household names such as Debenhams, Topshop, New Look, Wallis, Burton, Hobbs, Dorothy Perkins, Disney, Kurt Geiger, Jigsaw and the DoubleTree by Hilton on the Beach Boulevard in closing its doors for the final time.


The John Lewis branch in Aberdeen was the last department store north of the River Forth and was a staple of the shopping scene not only in Aberdeen but also in the entire North East, people would travel from all over to do their shopping especially at Christmas time. During my time in Aberdeen, I frequented the John Lewis cafe for cakes and coffee and knew that it was the place to get any household appliances that I needed. I was last there just before the Boxing Day shutdown to get some Christmas shopping but never imagined that would be the last time I would ever walk through its isles.


I have seen over time the decline of the Aberdeen high street from the closure of shops like BHS in 2016 to pubs like the Albyn but the Coronavirus has accelerated this trend towards online shopping and now the Aberdeen high street is dead. Online shopping, however, does not provide the same experience as in-person shopping where you can sample and try on products before deciding to buy them rather than having to get them delivered, realise you don't like them, and then send them back. You could also get all your shopping on the day and not have to wait several days for delivery. It was also something you could do with friends and family, especially during the festive season, rather than on your own in front of a screen and I think in time we will miss that experience. The future looks as if the high street will be something we'll see in old movies and TV shows with children asking their parents what memories they have of it.


Hopes of the Aberdeen oil and gas industry making a recovery were also cast into doubt by when the UK government announced that it will not grant drilling licenses if doing so would jeopardise their net-zero targets by 2050. Five to ten years ago, Aberdeen was the place to be if you were in business in the North East of Scotland but now it seems to be going the way of post-industrial cities such as Dundee with jobs and industry moving elsewhere leaving Aberdeen a city of commuters, unemployed and students.