Marks & Spencer triggers local anger after confirming store closures
Marks & Spencer has sparked uproar in local communities by confirming it will close nine shops across the UK, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
The closures include stores in Birmingham, London and Wales and are a result of M&S attempting to modernise its store estate as shoppers switch their spending online.
On Wednesday, the retailer said 430 workers would be affected, but that they would be offered jobs at nearby M&S stores.
The closures are the latest in a collection announced by high-profile British retailers. Tesco said in January it would be closing 43 stores, while Morrisons is shutting 23 stores and one in four Homebase shops are closing too.
M&S will close three traditional food and clothing shops, one Simply Food store, and five Outlet stores that sell end-of-season clothing.
The Outlet stores are in Walsall, Aldershot, Pontypridd in Wales, Hounslow in west London, and Royal Quays in North Shields. The three full-line stores are in Stevenage, Wood Green in north London, and The Fort shopping park in Castle Bromwich near Birmingham, while the Simply Food shop is in Shirley, also near Birmingham.
Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Erdington, said the closures near Birmingham were “a blow to the local economy and its employees”.
More than 11,000 people have signed a petition in Aldershot since M&S revealed in June that it was considering closing the store in the Hampshire town. The company also faced questions about the store at its annual meeting last month and “Save our M&S” banners appeared across the area.
M&S has been in Aldershot since 1922 and at its present location since 1927. The closure will leave Athe town without an M&S. The local council said the decision was a “bolt from the blue”.
The retailer has 852 shops in the UK, including 302 traditional clothing and food stores, 46 Outlet stores, and 504 Simply Foods. This is far more than its rivals. John Lewis, for example, has 44 stores in Britain.
M&S is attempting to adapt its collection of stores to cope with the rise in online sales and a slowdown in clothing sales.
Marc Bolland, its chief executive, has warned that M&S would not open any extra space to sell clothing in the UK, meaning that new openings in Longbridge in the West Midlands and Charlton in south London are being offset by closures.
However, the growth of M&S’s food sales means it has committed to opening 250 new Simply Food stores by 2017.
M&S said the closure of the Outlet stores was linked to the company managing its stock levels more efficiently. This meant those stores had less to sell.
Hugo Adams, director of property at M&S, said: “We are managing our store estate to ensure it is fit for the future of M&S and will continue to ensure we are in the best locations to serve our customers. We have a clear property strategy, which involves opening 250 new Simply Food stores and further improving the quality of our general merchandise space.”