Marks & Spencer: retail giant ‘not leaving’ city centres behind amid investment in new Bath and Bristol shops

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🛍️ Marks & Spencer has reaffirmed its commitment to city centres amid a £38m high street investment 💬

  • M&S has assured shareholders that it will not abandon city centres
  • The group closed 110 stores in 2019, impacting several long-established high street locations
  • Under CEO Stuart Machin and former chief Steve Rowe, the retailer has undergone significant transformation
  • The company’s leaders emphasised their commitment to the high street
  • M&S announced a £38 million investment in new stores in Bath and Bristol

Marks & Spencer executives have said they will not “leave city centres” amid shareholder concerns about relocating some stores to out-of-town areas.

It came as the company announced plans to invest £38 million in new high street stores in Bath and Bristol at its annual general meeting in west London.

Under the leadership of CEO Stuart Machin and former chief Steve Rowe, the retailer has undergone significant transformation, which has included reorganising its store network.

As part of this strategy, the group initiated the closure of 110 stores in 2019, impacting several long-established high street locations.

The group’s bosses were asked whether they have “given up on the high street” at the AGM on Tuesday (2 July), amid concerns they are shifting increasingly towards retail parks. Archie Norman, chairman of the business, said: “No, we haven’t given up on the high street.

“We have a very important store rotation programme but we are absolutely not trying to leave city centres – that has never been our intention. We do have some older stores that are hard and costly to maintain and run so we have to look at that.”

(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Stuart Machin, chief executive of M&S, said the programme of closures, refurbishments and relocations follows a previous lack of necessary investment. “Our store rotation is really a catch-up programme on the last 20 years as we have previously underinvested,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, the retailer confirmed that it is investing £17 million in a new store in the centre of Bath, and £21 million on a new flagship store in central Bristol. It said these are expected to create around 150 jobs.

At the meeting, shareholders voted heavily in favour of the group’s pay deal for bosses, who have led M&S shares 45% higher over the past year.

Machin saw his pay jump by around £2 million to £4.7 million last year, on the back of a larger bonus and long-term share awards.

Outside the AGM in Paddington there was a protest by campaigners for Peta (People for the ethical treatment of animals), with a supporter dressed as an alpaca.

It came after M&S reversed its ban on alpaca wool and said it would introduce the Textile Exchange’s Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS).

An M&S spokesperson said: “We don’t have any alpaca yarn in our products but updated our policy last year after a careful review of the updated industry welfare standards reassured us that should we reintroduce it in the future, our strict animal welfare requirements would be met.”

Join the conversation in the comments section to share your thoughts on Marks & Spencer’s strategy. Do you support their focus on city centres or have concerns about their store relocations?

The Star Business | News