M&S closes one of oldest branches in Britain after nearly 100 years as high street crushed

MARKS and Spencer is shutting down one of its oldest branches in a further blow to a troubled high street.

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The M&S on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow has occupied the site since 1935 but will close its doors permanently in April if the plans go ahead. M&S blamed changing shopping habits with regional manager David Bates explaining: “We need to focus our investment on the right stores in the right places so we can provide the very best shopping experience for our Glasgow customers. This decision means we can invest in our twelve other Glasgow stores including nearby M&S Argyle Street – so we keep pace with the demands of our customers today and in the future.” M&S says it will work to ensure as many staff as possible can be offered alternative roles but it is not known yet whether jobs will be lost from the move.

Glasgow has been home to M&S since 1918 when its first branch was opened on Argyle Street.

The Sauchiehall Street site has been an iconic part of the city’s shopping landscape though with a distinctive Art Deco frontage and has been the longest serving continuous branch.

Sauchiehall Street previously saw another major loss when when longstanding department store Watt Brothers closed in 2019.

It’s currently unknown what might move into the M&S building, though M&S has said it is in discussions with a potential partner and hopes to find a “complementary alternative use for the area.”

Marks and Spencer

The Sauchiehall Street M&S has occupied the site since 1935 (Image: Getty)

Sauchiehall Street

Sauchiehall Street has been a long standing shopping street for Glasgow (Image: Getty)

Chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Stuart Patrick, suggested an intervention to reverse Sauchiehall Street’s decline might now be needed.

He explained: “This latest high street closure is yet another sign of the damage that we are continuing to see amid pandemic restrictions.

“The closure of Marks and Spencer will come as a significant blow for Sauchiehall Street, highlighting the impact that the drop in footfall we have experienced across our struggling city centres has had on businesses.”

British high streets have suffered heavily throughout the pandemic with uncertainties around Omicron denting footfall in the crucial December trading period.

Primark

Other high street retailers such as Primark have reported lower footfalls due to Omicron (Image: Getty)

According to the British Retail Consortium footfall declined 18.6 percent year on year in December with a 2.9 percent decrease just on October.

In an update this morning Primark owner Associated British Foods reported trading had been “impacted” by lower footfall due to Omicron, although it had seen improvements in recent weeks.

Despite the pressures Marks and Spencer has enjoyed strong performance on its food sales which saw it become Britain’s fastest growing food retailer in the run up to Christmas.

Food sales have been particularly boosted by a tie up with Ocado which has helped it reach a broader audience.

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Ocado

M&S have been trying new innovations such as a tie up with Ocado (Image: Getty)

Online sales generally have been an area of growth for the store with online sales of clothing and home products rising 50.8 percent in the run up to Christmas compared to before the pandemic.

M&S has also been embarking on a transformation strategy it has dubbed “Never the Same Again”.

As well as its Ocado link up other new innovations have seen it stocking other brands such as Jaeger both online and in certain stores.

William Murphy

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