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Felixstowe to lose its Marks and Spencer store – give us your views

PUBLISHED: 20:00 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 20:00 15 January 2019

Marks and Spencer Felixstowe

Marks and Spencer Felixstowe

Archant

It is set to be the biggest blow to the town centre for decades – the loss of a popular shop, leaving Hamilton Road with a gaping hole, a large empty building that will be very difficult to fill.

It’s hard to believe that the shop is not profitable. It is always busy with customers – and often people pay at the clothes tills because the queues are so long in the food hall.

One of the key questions M&S needs to answer is why it is not turning the whole shop over to food, even for a year’s trial, before making a final decision.

Felixstowe failed in its bid to get a new superstore – with Tesco’s Walton project being rejected, the land behind Homebase found to be inaccessible and Asda walking away from the Walton Avenue site – and now the M&S decision will leave residents even less choice for food.

Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development, said today: “I am extremely disappointed to hear that Marks and Spencer intends to close its store in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe.

“Overall, as a town, Felixstowe is very much on the up, with record numbers of visitors coming this year and businesses investing in the area, so this bucks the positive trend in the resort.

“As a council, we will continue to work with local businesses to build a vibrant town centre for Felixstowe, including exploring through Felixstowe Forward the concept of setting up a Business Improvement District to increase the footfall in the town centre.

“I also hope that this prime site will not stand empty for long, but will be snapped up by a far-sighted new business.”

Meanwhile, M&S has announced that it is consulting with 35 members of staff on the proposed closure of the store.

The proposed closure is part of M&S’s programme to reshape its UK store estate.

The company is proposing to close 16 stores nationwide, including its 5,726sq ft store on Hamilton Road in Felixstowe, said to be one of its smallest high street stores.

Calum Telford, M&S head of region for East Anglia, said: “Proposing to close M&S Felixstowe is a very difficult decision. At this time our colleagues are our first priority and we’ll be talking to each individually about what this means for them and making sure they’re fully supported.

“We remain committed to serving local customers and, if the proposal goes ahead, they will be able to continue to shop for M&S Clothing & Home products from our Ipswich store and on M&S.com.”

Nearest M&S stores to Felixstowe include M&S Martlesham Heath Ipswich Foodhall (10.1 miles away), M&S Ipswich (13 miles away), M&S Colchester (27.6 miles away).

Like many bricks and mortar traders, M&S had a disappointing Christmas period. Like-for-like clothing and home sales dropped 2.4% over the 13 weeks to December 29, while comparable food sales fell 2.1%.

M&S faces greater competition from online retailers such as Boo Hoo, the owner of Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing, which saw revenue rise 44% to £328.2m in the four months to December 31. In November 2016 M&S announced a five-year programme to improve the quality of its Clothing & Home space for customers.

Since then a number of announcements have been made.

These have included closing 30 stores, three of which were relocations. In May 2018 M&S announced that it will continue to accelerate its space plan, after seeing better than expected numbers of customers moving to shop at other nearby M&S locations and its target to have one-third of sales online by 2022.

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