Marks & Spencer to close dozens of stores - but what about Bexhill and Hastings branches?

Marks & Spencer has this week announced plans to close dozens of stores across the country.

The retail giant said yesterday (Wednesday, May 26) it was planning to shut 30 branches as part of a shake-up of more than 100 stores in total.

Eighty of the branches are set to merge or relocate.

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The company reported a £201.2 million pre-tax loss for the year to March 27 this year.

The Marks & Spencer branch in Bexhill. Picture from Google SUS-210527-121211001

Location specialist CACI conducted an analysis of Marks & Spencer’s portfolio based on the available spend in each branch’s catchment areas and the health of the local retail market.

According to its research, it said the Bexhill store was one of 60 ‘most likely to close’.

Marks & Spencer has yet to publish a full list of affected stores.

The company said that while almost all of the clothing and home departments in its 254 full-line stores are profitable, a number are in ‘long-term decline’, struggle to cover their allocated costs and ‘cannot justify future investment’.

The aim, the company said, is to have a ‘fully modernised core’ of around 180 stores, constituting 100 stores in prime retail markets – an increase of 20 – and around 80 stores in ‘core markets’ – an increase of 15.

John Bownas, manager of Love Hastings, said: “The huge challenges facing high streets and retail parks are brought into stark relief when household names such as M&S make announcements such as this.

“We all hope that Bexhill escapes the relegation zone as the store as well-used and much-loved and its departure would be a real blow to the local economy.”

Sean Dennis, from Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, said: “The retail sector has and continues to face significant challenges, as more people switch to online shopping.

“This has and continues to be exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic. We have already lost significant established high street names from the area, so the potential for losing another one is very concerning.

“We sincerely hope the Bexhill outlet avoids the cut, protects jobs and continues to offer a quality retail experience for the area.”

Howard Martin, president of Bexhill Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, said: “We are very aware that retail was facing many challenges before the pandemic which has exasperated the situation.

“The loss of the M&S Ravenside store will be a real loss to our community as locally it is well-loved and cherished.

“However if the store is to close we hope that the opportunity will be seized by the landowners, Land Securities, and our local authorities to have plans ready for a substantial destination leisure facility that will become a massive draw on this key site.

“You only have to look at the massive success of the Crawley K2 leisure facility to see the positive impact on economic activity such a centre would have.

“With the swimming pool next door lease coming up and the M&S having originally replaced a bowling alley this could be seen as a fantastic opportunity to create something quite distinctive for our area that will attract people from across the region.

“M&S may well be a loss but it could also be a fantastic opportunity to create more jobs, more investment and help drive a demographic shift in our area.”