M&S boss says closing store is 'right decision' but campaigners carry on fight for u-turn
PUBLISHED: 12:01 28 January 2019
Marks & Spencer's chief executive Steve Rowe has told Felixstowe's community leaders that closing the town's M&S store is the "right decision" for his company.
Thousands of people have signed petitions calling for M&S to rethink the closure proposal – and this week town councillors are taking their fight to Parliament.
In a letter to Felixstowe Town Council, Mr Rowe said he “fully understands” the resort’s disappointment and concern about the impact on the town and on customers who shop in the Hamilton Road store.
He said: “You will be aware of the rapidly changing retail landscape and the need to respond to those changes by delivering a better located, more productive and sustainable store estate which meets the needs of our customers in the future. Unfortunately, our store estate reflects past shopping habits not future ones and it is imperative that we put that right.
“In terms of Felixstowe itself, I can assure you that the proposal was given considerable consideration by senior management personnel and followed very detailed evaluation of relevant commercial, financial and property factors relating to current performance and future potential.
“That evaluation also included the potential impact of developments in the town, such as housing, tourist/visitor attractions and town centre improvements. We are convinced it is the right decision for M&S.”
Mayor of Felixstowe, Graham Newman, who wrote to Mr Rowe to express the town’s concerns, said: “I would like to assure residents that I will pursue this dialogue with M&S and to that end a meeting has been set up with the company’s senior management at the Houses of Parliament, where I will be joined by Suffolk Coastal District Council deputy leader Geoff Holdcroft and our MP, Dr Thérèse Coffey.”
Dr Coffey is hosting the meeting but has been criticised for her realistic stance, saying it was “unlikely” M&S would change its mind, although she would be strongly making the case for keeping the shop open.
Felixstowe Labour party branch officer Michael Sharman said he was “deeply concerned” at the MP’s attitude and called it defeatist.
Mike Titchener, chairman of Felixstowe Town Centre Residents Association, said the meeting was “our last hope”.
He said: “A lot of people would like to see it as a food hall. It’s a small store so the clothing department is quite small, but people can click and collect – but people are not going to click and collect in Felixstowe and then go to Martlesham to pick it up. It’s a 40-minute trip and there are only two buses.”
Protesters were out in force at the weekend outside the store gathering signatures on cards, which will be packaged up and sent off to Mr Rowe.