John Lewis has had a long history in Watford, but today it was announced that its store in intu Watford will be permanently closing.

This had been on the cards for a while, so it seems, with John Lewis deeming its Watford store "financially challenged" even before the coronavirus lockdown.

Seven other stores in the UK will also not be reopening following the lockdown, John Lewis confirmed, to “secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs”.

Following today's news we have had a look back at the history of John Lewis in the town and how we came to where we are today.


1880 - The Trewins store is born

John Lewis, as we know it today, was founded back in 1880 by Arthur Trewin, who purchased a small draper’s shop in Queens Road, Watford.

The shop, which was named Trewins, quickly became a success and became know for securing a "good medium class trade", according to John Lewis.

By 1885 it was inviting customers to view their stock of household linens, dress piece goods, mantles, furs, children’s hosiery and trimmings.

And in 1887 the business moved into the newly built Osborne House, where it was rebranded to the Trewin Brothers.

1918 - The business is sold

The success of the Trewin Brothers store was noticed by H.Gordon Selfridge, who acquired the business in 1918.

And it became one of the fifteen Selfridge Provincial Stores run by Selfridge until 1940.

According to John Lewis, the store opened a ‘Television Theatre’ and celebrities regularly visited the shop to promote various products.

1940 - The store is bought

In 1940 the John Lewis partnership acquired 15 stores from the Selfridge family, one of which was the Trewin Brothers.

The shop had become run down because of World War two, with a bomb dropped in Watford having damaged the shop in 1941.

However, it still managed to continue trading, and by 1963 work commenced to build a new extension to the shop adjacent to the old one. The work was completed by 1965.

1990 - The Trewin Brothers store moves to the Harlequin

During the 80s the Harlequin Centre was built and as it started to open in 1990 in phases, the Trewin Brothers had to be demolished.

Most stores in Queens Street were demolished for the new centre, and staff at Trewins moved their stock from their old shop on August 12, 1990.

According to John Lewis, staff had to trundle stock through the town centre in cages and trolleys to their new home in the shopping centre.

2001 - The rebranding

On September 18, 2001, the store was officially rebranded into John Lewis, and a couple of days later it started to open on Sundays for the first time.

And it became popular in the town centre, with the Harlequin Centre also gaining popularity with people across Watford.

Staff at John Lewis in Watford also took part in a number of fundraising events, and on a number of occasions were given bonuses for their hard work.

Watford Observer:

2013 - Little Waitrose is established

The Watford branch of John Lewis became the first national store to incorporate a little Waitrose, which added 30 new jobs to the area.

It was part of a £2million investment, which saw 5,500 sq ft of storage and office space on the second floor converted into a ‘little Waitrose at John Lewis’ shop.

The shop was made to look and feel like a Waitrose, with the same food expertise and food products, and was run by John Lewis staff.

At this point the Harlequin was also changed to intu Watford, when the owner of the shopping centre rebranded into intu.

2014 - 150th anniversary of John Lewis

John Lewis Watford celebrated the brand’s 150th birthday back in 2014, with staff at the store in the newly rebranded intu shopping centre staging a three-day event.

The event included a live jazz band, free birthday cupcakes for customers, a host of children's activities, chocolate tastings and supplier demonstrations.

Watford Observer:

March 2020

With the government enforcing the coronavirus lockdown, John Lewis along with a number of other shops was forced to close for a few months.

However, by this point the store in Watford had been deemed as "financially challenged " by John Lewis and decisions were being made over its future.

According to John Lewis, footfall and other costs is to blame for its decision to close the store in Watford - despite the company paying no rent to be there.

But as far as intu Watford were concerned, the store was set to reopen following the coronavirus lockdown, although John Lewis in Watford did not open when stores were allowed to lift their shutters on June 15.

July 2, 2020

By this point Debenhams in intu Watford was shutting permanently, and now national newspaper sources were saying that the John Lewis store in Watford could be one of the branches at risk of closing forever.

A leaked letter to staff from John Lewis chairman Sharon White revealed plans to cut jobs, close stores, ditch staff bonuses, and close a head office as part of a cost-cutting drive.

Ms White confirmed in a letter to thousands of staff that it is “highly unlikely we will reopen all our John Lewis stores”.

July 9, 2020

John Lewis said it is closing permanently its Watford store along with seven others, putting 1,300 workers at risk.

The John Lewis Partnership said the decision was made to “secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs”.

It said department stores in Birmingham and Watford will be affected, along with four At Home stores in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth, and travel sites in Heathrow and St Pancras.