Exeter John Lewis opens with £7m worth of stock

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Media captionNew John Lewis store opens

Retailer John Lewis has opened its first store in Devon with £7m worth of stock.

The shop on Sidwell Street, Exeter, opened at 09:00 BST with people queuing outside.

The new store has taken on 300 employees and will trial interactive technologies relating to shopping.

John Harvey, Exeter city centre manager, said: "It's been a really exciting journey. It's a city moving very much in the right direction."

He added: "Over the past few years we have been working hard to revive the high street and provide local residents with the best selection of retailers, restaurants and leisure facilities in Exeter and the surrounding area."

Supporting independents

The shop, which is spread over five floors, will pilot interactive information screens to help customers find products, digital store guides for shop navigation and wall screens to advertise the products available across the company.

Despite Kate Connock, manager of the new store, saying customers would drive "50-60 miles to get to our shops", independent retailers in the city said they were not worried.

Beverley Brittain, from Posh Boutique, said: "I think people will go and make it a day out but I don't think we'll lose a lot of trade. I do think it will be an asset in the South West."

Image caption People queued outside the store before it opened on Friday morning

Roger Panter, who owns a shop on Sidwell Street, said: "I think we'll benefit overall, but I hope the council and the city centre management realise that Sidwell Street doesn't end just past John Lewis and they make sure they improve where the independent traders are."

In neighbouring city Plymouth, city centre manager Clint Jones said: "It will have an impact on retail sales in Plymouth, it will more than likely push Exeter ahead of us in the retail sales rankings, but I don't think we should be massively concerned.

"Plymouth isn't just a shopping destination, it's a tourist destination.

"But the people of Plymouth need to realise that if we don't use our high street, if we don't support our independents, then it won't exist in the way that it currently does."

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