Watford's Mayor has said that John Lewis shutting in Watford is "incredibly sad news for our town".

Mayor Peter Taylor said the closure will be a "heartbreaking loss" for the town, while Watford MP Dean Russell said he is "deeply dissapointed" by the news.

John Lewis confirmed earlier today that it will close eight stores in the UK, including its department store in intu Watford.

Watford Borough Council confirmed that John Lewis did not pay rent for the site in Watford, but the chain said it is closing stores to “secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs”.

The site in Watford was deemed by John Lewis as being "financially challenged", along with seven other shops across the UK.

Mayor Taylor said: “This is incredibly sad news for our town. John Lewis and its predecessor have played a really important part in the lives of generations of people in our town and this is undoubtedly a heartbreaking loss.

“My thoughts are with the John Lewis staff who are losing their jobs and facing a very worrying time."

Mr Taylor said the council is putting a package of support together for those affected and will work with John Lewis, as well as any other impacted businesses, "to make sure that anyone who needs help and advice receives it".

He added: “John Lewis paid no rent on its site in Watford and it is clear they are facing a challenging time nationally and are looking to scale back their business. 

"Covid-19 is proving tough for many retailers and I would encourage everyone in our town to support our local businesses - they need your help now more than ever.

“I know that our town will work together to get through this pandemic and the economic challenges that we face. We need to care for each other and adapt to the new realities that we face so that we get through this difficult period together.”

Watford Observer:

Mr Russell added: "John Lewis served our town well for so many years and the staff who work there have been a central part of our community.

"For many, John Lewis was synonymous with shopping in our High Street. I will be writing to John Lewis to ensure that they do their utmost to support staff at this difficult time.

"I will do all I can to encourage new stores to open in the high street. Following yesterday’s announcement by the Chancellor of £30 billion in support of jobs and businesses has undoubtedly come at a time when many have been struggling."

Follow live - John Lewis in Watford to close permanently

John Lewis has had a long history in the town, starting out as Trewins in Queens Road in 1880 before the name was changed in 2001.

Former employee and dedicated shopper Caroline Sampson, who launched a petition to save John Lewis earlier this week, said the closure was "devastating".

She said: "What is going to happen to Watford’s shopping centre? We have no department stores left. We’ve lost BHS, Debenhams and now John Lewis.

"My friend has said John Lewis is the Watford shopping centre. 

"You can’t beat feeling a fabric for yourself, trying something on, or having someone well equipped enough to describe the merits of a washing machine or computer. That’s why you go to John Lewis."

More than 4,000 people have already signed Mrs Sampson's petition, and she is now urging John Lewis to "rethink" its decision.

She said: "The 4,000 signatures on my petition shows the strength of feeling and affection and support the shop has. I would really like to hope the mayor could engage in conversation with John Lewis to persuade them to rethink.

"Why have Watford and Birmingham been singled out, particularly if the Watford branch does not pay rent? It is such a part of the town’s heritage.

"I would urge John Lewis to rethink and at least reopen for a trial six month period."

Meanwhile, Watford Labour group leader Nigel Bell said the closure of John Lewis in the town "is a true shame".

He said: "Starting at Trewins in Queens Road, John Lewis has been in the heart of Watford for 140 years, 30 of which in our shopping centre.

"It is a truly terrible day for Watford to lose one of our historic shops and even more jobs in Watford as a result of this ongoing crisis and downward economy."

Chris Ostrowski, who fought to become the town's MP for Labour back in December, said: "I started my career at John Lewis and it's terribly sad to see the shop close here in Watford. 

"My heart goes out to the staff and I call on the Government and John Lewis to give them all the support they need at this difficult time."