West Midlands mayor and former John Lewis boss Andy Street launched a stinging attack on his old employer after it confirmed the closure of its vast Birmingham store.
Mr Street said the company could have found a way to keep the sprawling 250,000 sq ft site at New Street station open but refused to consider options.
The Conservative mayor spoke out as John Lewis shut eight stores forever, including the £35m Birmingham site which it opened to great fanfare just five years ago. Mr Street was managing director of John Lewis at the time, before leaving in 2016 to enter politics.
Mr Street said: “Having had a productive meeting and subsequent correspondence with John Lewis bosses, including the chair Dame Sharon White, we are astounded by the decision to press ahead with the closure of the Birmingham store.”
He claimed to have put forward several viable alternatives to keep the Grand Central branch open but said these had been rejected by John Lewis. Mr Street argued that footfall at the store has increased year-on-year.
The site is owned by landlord Hammerson and its closure puts 399 jobs at risk. The other John Lewis stores closing are in Croydon, Watford, Heathrow, St Pancras International, Swindon, Tamworth and Newbury.
Last month Dame Sharon unveiled a revolutionary plan to save the retailer in which it could open garden centres, ditch a longstanding price promise and turn department stores into affordable housing.
The mutual has been battling for stability in the wake of lockdown. A John Lewis spokesman said: “This is a very sad occasion and one we never thought was imaginable when we first opened these shops.
“Our expectation was that we would trade in these locations for many years to come, but they were financially challenged before the pandemic and we have not been able to find a way that would allow us to turn that around.”