NI Marks & Spencer stores to be reviewed in closure plans

Marks & Spencer said it will close around 30 of its 304 full-line stores
Marks & Spencer said it will close around 30 of its 304 full-line stores

Marks & Spencer’s 20 Northern Ireland stores will be reviewed on an individual business to assess whether any will close.

In light of falling profits, the retailer has said it will close 30 UK stores and slash shop space devoted to its ailing clothing ranges as it focuses more on food under a sweeping overhaul.

That would suggest the eight Simply Food outlets at Lisburn, Coleraine, Armagh, Londonderry and Cookstown as well as Lisburn Road, Boucher Road and Ballyhackamore in Belfast should escape the axe.

Staff at the 10 ‘full-line’ stores which stock clothes and homeware in addition to food face an uncertain future. This includes shopping centre-based outlets at Forestside and Abbeycentre in Belfast, Sprucefield in Lisburn, Bloomfield in Bangor, Fairhill in Ballymena, Buttercrane in Newry, Foyleside in Londonderry, Erneside in Enniskillen, Showgrounds in Omagh as well as Belfast city centre’s flagship store in Donegall Place.

Outlet stores at Junction One in Antrim and The Outlet In Banbridge will also be scrutinised.

The announcement has cast doubts over plans for a new M&S food hall in Carrickfergus.

It had been reported in September that Mid And East Antrim Council had received a pre-application notice from Marks & Spencer over plans to open a food hall at 75 Belfast Road.

The informal proposal was never officially confirmed by M&S.

The high street retailer have said they do plan to open more Simply Food outlets in the UK so the Carrick food hall could still go ahead. However, given yesterday’s announcement the development could be set back significantly.

M&S said they could not comment on any speculation surrounding a new store in Carrick.

Details of the M&S restructure came as it said underlying pre-tax profits fell 18.6% to £231.3 million in the six months to October 1, while bottom-line profits crashed 88.4% to £25.1 million.

Chief executive Steve Rowe also outlined plans to shut 53 stores across 10 international markets including China and France, putting around 2,100 jobs at risk.

M&S, which has 936 stores in the UK, said clothing departments would be shut in 60 of its 304 full-line stores, with 30 stores closing altogether, and 45 shops to be converted into Simply Food outlets, downsized or relocated.

Around 100 stores overall will be affected by the changes over the next five years, it said.

The group remained tight-lipped on the number of UK staff impacted by the plans, but said that, where possible, it would keep “job continuity” for affected employees.