Laura Sharman 05 April 2022

Call to rescue 'cathedrals of commerce'

Call to rescue cathedrals of commerce image
Image of TJ Hughes, Eastbourne: ©Paul Gillett /

A new report has warned that 18 of the UK’s most significant department store buildings could be permanently lost due to changes in shopping habits and the impact of the pandemic.

The report by SAVE Britain’s Heritage urges these 'cathedrals of commerce' to be rescued and used for other purposes.

It found that 18 are at serious risk of being permanently lost, but also highlighted 14 department stores have been reinvented and restored for other uses.

The report said: 'In a new era when large-scale retail is no longer sustainable, these fine structures are at risk of dilapidation or even demolition. And as these hubs of daily life are erased from the map, local communities feel increasingly disenfranchised.

'Protecting and reviving these buildings is not only a matter of preserving precious and distinctive architecture; it is an opportunity to restore a sense of place.'

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: 'As our shopping habits change, so too can our landmark department stores. With imagination and determination, these historic "cathedrals of commerce" can once again contribute to the life and vitality that our high streets are crying out for, while telling the rich and opulent history of over a century of commerce.'

Figures from the British Retail Consortium and Local Data Company shows there were 237 vacant department stores in the UK last summer.

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