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John Lewis

By 31st October 2017Case Studies, Retail

The St James Centre has been at the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre shopping experience for over 40 years, with John Lewis being the headline attraction. Therefore, it was only natural that John Lewis was confirmed as the anchor retailer for the new £1bn Edinburgh St James urban regeneration project. The1970s shopping centre will ultimately be completely replaced by this ambitious development, which will interlock with the existing John Lewis store (being retained, remodelled and expanded).

This project kick starts the wider, Edinburgh St James, development and we were delighted to be appointed as the mechanical, electrical and data services fit-out contractor for this first phase of the development. As well as being remodelled and expanded, the retail layout was extended and reconfigured to facilitate the subsequent demolition and construction phases of the wider project.


Enabling works were needed so that the branch could continue to trade. It was losing access for shoppers and incoming services (which were previously supplied via the existing St James Centre). To overcome the access issues, a new entrance was formed on Leith Street, the ‘Prow’ entrance extended and a new customer collection point was created.

Phase 1 incorporated a complete mechanical, electrical and data fit-out over floors 4 & 5, with the addition of a new café and a new consumer electronics area. These additions required consequential department moves on other floors and the creation of a new menswear department on level 2. This phase also included all isolations, strip-out works and service re-configurations to facilitate the demolition works for the wider project.




This was a complex and challenging project, from start to finish, given that we were working in a live environment throughout and the client had specified there was to be no commercial downtime. Therefore, we needed to consider all operational factors and risks involved – keeping the store trading, whilst safeguarding public safety at all times. Not only were we re-configuring services within the store, but we were also transferring all the power supplies in the branch from the old switchroom to the new one, whilst the store continued to trade – a complex, but not insurmountable challenge for our team!

Re-locating items of plant to the roof and first floor switchroom also presented the logistical safety challenge of city centre crane lifts, for which a traffic management plan was executed to ensure a safe system of work.



In the pre-construction phase, we carried out site surveys to agree the programme of works and operational change management protocol, to ensure the transfer of power supplies went smoothly.  This was achieved working in tandem with John Lewis and their consultants to strategically plan a robust programme, which ensured public safety, coupled with no retail downtime.

We completed the transfer in a series of phased shut downs.  These were agreed in advance, as a programme of sectional transfers and handovers, to de-risk this extremely risky task – which had the potential for massive consequential losses! Our Project Manager worked in close consultation with the client’s IT department to make sure all data was backed-up prior to the pre-agreed shutdowns. Our installation team then worked in a series of pre-planned nightshifts, making sure that we were able to get each area back online and operational for the following day’s footfall and retail trading.


“With the scale of this development, we knew that continuing retail operations was going to be extremely challenging. There are not many contractors who would be up to that challenge, but the Arthur McKay team did not disappoint! They understood our need for business continuity and were able to deliver without any loss of trade, which was one of our main goals for this project.”

Stuart Watson, Engineering Manager, John Lewis Partnership


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