Marks & Spencer to close dozens of stores – but will the Sheffield shops stay open?

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Marks & Spencer has announced plans to close 30 stores by the end of this year - sparking speculation about its future in Sheffield city centre.

The upmarket chain said clothing and homeware sales were down due to the pandemic, leading to a £201.2m pre-tax loss for the year to March 27.

The news was met with concern in Sheffield where the M&S on Fargate is one of just two remaining department stores after the closure of Debenhams and John Lewis.

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As well as 30 closures, M&S said a further 70 shops would be ‘restructured’ and become food only, or move or merged into one. M&S has a very large store at Meadowhall.

M&S is the biggest store on Fargate by some distance.M&S is the biggest store on Fargate by some distance.
M&S is the biggest store on Fargate by some distance.

However, the company also plans to open 17 new or expanded ‘full line’ stores over the next two years, including a number in former Debenhams stores.

Debenhams on The Moor closed earlier this month. M&S has not said which of its shops will shut or move.

The owner of The Moor, NewRiver, previously said it will have a big say over the future of the Debenhams building, although it does not own it.

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But it declined to comment on M&S potentially moving in.

Patrick Abel, corporate finance partner at Hart Shaw Chartered Accountants, said M&S taking the former Debenhams or John Lewis stores would both be good options, but he was concerned about it moving to Meadowhall.

He added: “Let’s hope they don’t just think Sheffield has a store at Meadowhall. I’ve worked for London-centric businesses. They often view things as ‘Leeds is next to Sheffield so that’s fine’, no idea of things like the Pennines between here and Manchester etc."

Retired nurse and PR officer, Elizabeth Frampton, said she’d noticed a lot of empty spaces at the M&S on Fargate.

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She added: “Hardly any new ranges which are advertised on line!”

Rufus Meakin, R&D tax credit claim specialist, said a move to The Moor ‘seems obvious’ for M&S.

He added: “The current Fargate store is out on a limb, whereas Debenhams is right at the centre, given the way the shopping district has shifted recently.

“Even with the proposed closures, M&S will still have an estate of 180 stores so I can see them still wanting Sheffield city centre as being a part of that.”

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.