Marks & Spencer is closing nine stores in September because they are considered not to be fit for the future and in the wrong locations to serve its customers.
The group is carrying out the closures in the context of its ongoing review of its estate and a continued drive to improve the quality of its general merchandise space.
Only one of the nine closures is a Simply Food convenience store – in Shirley, in the West Midlands – a format M&S regards as “a growth story”, with 250 opening over the three years to March 2017, 62 of which opened last year.
The other outlets to close on 26 September are three full-line stores in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Wood Green, north London and The Fort shopping park in Castle Bromwich, in the West Midlands. The Outlet stores earmarked for closure were Walsall, West Midlands, Aldershot, Hampshire, Pontypridd, Wales, Hounslow, Middlesex and Royal Quays, in North Shields, Tyneside.
M&S said it had been clear about its property strategy and it had already given guidance that there would be no new net general merchandise space increase this year.
Mike Dennis, managing director of consumer research at Cantor Fitzgerald, said: “In an industry that has over extended itself into convenience, it wouldn’t surprise me if more [Simply Foods] closed in future.”
He believed the closure of space was more a reflection of falling sales density in light of consumers trading down over the past three to four years and the market reaching maturity. What would be pertinent, he said, was whether there was any revaluation of M&S’s assets in light of sales density and pressure on margins.
M&S said all staff had been offered redeployment opportunities to nearby stores and the group was also opening new full-lines stores, including the recently opened sites in Charlton south-east London, and Longbridge, near Birmingham, which would open by the end of the year.
Hugh 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’re in the best locations to serve our customers. We have a clear property strategy which includes opening 250 new Simply Food stores and further improving the quality of our general merchandise space.”