Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Oldest department store to close

Lewis's department store
The store was opened in 1856 by David Lewis and bombed during WWII

Liverpool's oldest department store is set to close - with the loss of more than 200 jobs.

Lewis's in Ranelagh Street will close its doors for the final time in June.

The iconic building, which greets visitors when they enter the city, will be turned into a hotel and retail complex.

Developers Merepark, who bought the store - saving it from administration in 2007 - said the store had to close to ensure the new project went ahead.

Vergo Retail, which has been leasing from Merepark and runs the retail side of the store, made the announcement to staff on Monday morning.

A store closing down programme will begin immediately, a Vergo spokeswoman said.

David Thompson, managing director of Vergo Retail said: "It is with great regret that we have to announce the closure of Lewis's store, as our lease with Merepark expires in June.

We would like to thank the generations of Liverpool people who have shopped with us throughout the years
David Thompson, managing director of Vergo Retail

"It has now become apparent from Merepark that once the scheduled works commence it would be impossible for us to continue trading from within this building.

"We will continue talking to the landlord about possible space within any new development but at this stage no new lease has been agreed."

The emptying of the store will begin, with £5m worth of stock to go.

He added: "We would like to thank the generations of Liverpool people who have shopped with us throughout the years, sadly these will be our final few weeks and it is the end of an era which should not be missed."

Any customers who placed deposits on items within the store will find their agreement honoured, Mr Thompson said.

A spokeswoman for Merepark said: "Unfortunately the store will have to close to ensure we can carry out the massive development work.

"We will, of course keep the iconic exterior as it is.

"We will deliver a leisure and retail led scheme that will guarantee the long term future of one of the city's most iconic buildings. This redevelopment will create up to 1000 jobs."

Lewis's Department store was founded in 1856 by David Lewis and is one of the country's oldest surviving independent department stores.

It was burned down in 1886 and then bombed during World War II but was rebuilt in 1956.

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