Last ditch plea to save Felixstowe M&S - by making it a food hall only
PUBLISHED: 11:30 31 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:21 31 January 2019
M&S customers in Felixstowe have pleaded with store bosses to give their town centre shop threatened with closure one last chance by converting it completely into a food hall.
Petitions were presented to Marks and Spencer bosses containing nearly 8,000 signatures of residents and visitors desperate to keep the store in Hamilton Road.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and mayor and deputy mayor of Felixstowe, Graham Newman and Tracey Green, and Suffolk Coastal deputy leader Geoff Holdcroft had a frank exchange of views with the M&S head of public affairs, Tony Ginty, when they met in Parliament yesterday.
The civic leaders said Felixstowe is a town on the rise and with jobs, population and investment all increasing and that it would be a mistake for M&S to close.
Mr Newman and fellow councillors made a presentation on the importance of the store to the town and how popular it is with residents and visitors who enjoy coming to Felixstowe to shop.
Mr Ginty then shared confidential financial information with the meeting to show how Marks & Spencer had made their assessment to close the store and suggested that having a store with a full offer of clothing, home and food was not viable.
Dr Coffey said: “I recognise the change in Marks & Spencer’s national strategy reflecting more online shopping.
“The councillors and I put forward the view that at the very least Marks & Spencer could convert the store to a Food Hall in Felixstowe, which could then include a Click and Collect facility for clothing. This has already been evaluated but we provided additional information they should consider and asked them to consider that again. We will be writing to them to follow up.”
Mr Newman said: “We expressed as strongly as we could, the loyalty and passion Felixstowe residents have for the M&S store in Hamilton Road – as demonstrated by the thousands who have signed on-line and paper petitions. We stressed the convenience of access to the store, the free and inexpensive nearby parking facilities, and how Felixstowe is growing with new homes and much improved tourist attractions.
“We asked whether a food-only outlet had been considered, bearing in mind this was easily the most popular feature of the store, although it currently occupied less than two thirds of the available floor area. We await their final consideration on this.”
They also formally handed over a petition signed by just under 7,000 individuals, while Felixstowe Labour party members Margaret Morris and Michael Sharman later delivered personal protest cards signed by 982 people to Archie Norman, chairman of M&S Group.
M&S chief executive Steve Rowe has said closing the store is the “right decision” for his company following a very detailed evaluation of commercial, financial and property factors relating to current performance and future potential, including the growth of the town.
An M&S spokesperson said; “We welcome the feedback we have received on the proposed closure of our Felixstowe store from our loyal customers, the wider local community and their representatives. We recognise proposing to close a store is never easy for a community, but it is vital and necessary for the future of M&S.”