The cost-cutting exercise generates uncertainty around the futures of stores in Worthing’s Montague Street and the Holmbush Centre in Shoreham.
But while an official list of the affected stores has not yet been released, Worthing town centre manager Sharon Clarke said she was confident Worthing’s popular store and café would survive the chop.
“I would think from Worthing’s perspective, our store is performing well enough to remain open,” she said.
“We’re quite confident at the moment that they’ll stay – only last week I was in there talking to them about their plans for the future.
“Out of town stores might be attractive to M&S for the low business rates, but at the moment if the store is doing well then closing it is unlikely.”
Mrs Clarke added we could still ‘never say never’ and the town would be keenly awaiting the list of affected stores.
The retailer 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.
That would be achieved in part by relocating high street units to retail parks.
Regarding the remaining 110 current stores, an M&S spokesman said they would either be relocated to a food only store, another full-line store or consolidating multiple stores into one.
Around 30 stores will be closed outright.
Shoreham’s Marks & Spencer store in the Holmbush Centre is another popular location that appears to fit with the new model of focusing on retail parks.
But as with Worthing’s, its fate remains to be seen.
Mrs Clarke said the easing of lockdown restrictions had brought welcome footfall back to the town centre, particularly over the first few days.
The wet and windy weather over the last week had curtailed progress slightly, she said, but she expected trade to ramp up once summer really kicks into gear.
There are 14 empty shops in the town centre – a vacancy rate of 6.6 per cent – but all of them are under offer, Mrs Clarke said.