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'We want a Primark' - shoppers call for discount retailer as M&S closes

PUBLISHED: 16:55 27 November 2018

Marks and Spencer Clacton Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

Marks and Spencer Clacton Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

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Marks and Spencer is closing its doors in Clacton town centre for the last time today and residents sad to lose another clothing store are calling for budget chain Primark to move in - but does the future really lie in more retail?

Clacton has suffered the loss of several retail outlets in the last year in its town centre, which have not yet been re-filled.

Many residents in Clacton say they would like to see the budget retailer Primark opening up in the space left by M&S, and one resident, Sharon Ward, has started an online petition on change.org, which so far has more than 300 signatures. It states: “We Need A Primark In Clacton, more clothes stores needed down here. We don’t need no more tattooists in this town.”

The nearest Primark store to Clacton is currently in Colchester.

Primark was approached by this newspaper and asked whether they would consider opening up in Clacton, and responded that: “Primark does not comment on speculation or plans regarding new store openings.”

But Zoe Fairley, Tendring District Council cabinet member for investment and growth, believes that the exit of M&S represents an opportunity to do something different in the town centre.

“The authority and partners are looking at ways to adapt to a new future for Clacton town centre, as the closure of M&S represents a wider change in the retail environment,” she said. “That is why we have pulled together a town centre working group to look at options for how Clacton may look in the future, and how we can achieve that.

“The face of retail is changing in this country – Clacton is not the only town losing its M&S – and we must embrace this change positively.”

The Marks and Spencer building on Pier Avenue in Clacton was bought by Tendring District Council (TDC) last August, but Marks and Spencer has an ongoing lease on the building until March 2027.

A spokesperson for Marks and Spencer said that the company would be in conversation with TDC, and would be “marketing the property accordingly” in the hope of getting someone else in the building. He also admitted that “sales performance and profitablity” had been the main reasons for deciding to leave town.

The decision to buy the M&S building came about after TDC established a policy for acquisition of commercial property in 2016, and it was felt that the rental from the Marks and Spencer property could make a substantial contribution to addressing the Council’s financial pressures.

But the decision to buy the property has been criticised by some residents, given M&S’s decision to move out.

UKIP Councillor for Clacton’s Alton Park ward, Alex Porter said: “I was extremely surprised at the purchase, as I had been told that M&S was losing money and was earmarked for closure some time before the purchase.

“I’ve questioned the decision but obviously the civil servants involved deny any wrongdoing.”

Neil Stock, leader of TDC stated that when the decision to acquire the freehold of the site was made, the possibility of Marks and Spencer closing down was discussed. “We knew that we were as safe as we could be in respect of the investment of taxpayers’ money; we have a lease agreement in place with M&S, which will ensure the Council is not left out of pocket,” he said.

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