Marks and Spencer reveals proposals to shut Stevenage store

Marks and Spencer.

Marks and Spencer. - Credit: Archant

Marks and Spencer has announced today that it may shut its Stevenage store which has been based in the town centre for 45 years.

Speaking this morning, a spokesman for the firm said: “We are proposing to shut the store because it has become commercially unviable.”

The Queensway store opened in 1970 and currently employs 46 staff.

If it shuts all the staff will be offered jobs in other stores in the surrounding area and no redundancies will be made.

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor said: “I think it is very disappointing. Marks and Spencer have been downgrading its Stevenage store for years. If they had done something to improve the store in the past it might have been be more viable.

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“This is not a recent issue. Marks and Spencer has been downgrading this store over a number of decades and I think they have missed an opportunity to be a success.”

When asked if the decision to allow Debenhams to build a department store in the Roaring Meg Retail Park could have affected the company’s decision, Councillor Taylor said: “It has had no affect. We have to accept that Debenhams want a store there and it is good that they are coming to the town.

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“When regeneration starts in the town centre more people will be drawn in and trade won’t be taken away by the retail park. When transport links are going between the two it will help considerably.”

She also believes that the shop could be drawn back to Stevenage when the town centre regeneration gets under way.

In September the firm closed the second floor of the shop, which it blamed on more people shopping online.

This affected 13 jobs, which were relocated to other stores.

The Comet spoke to the town centre manager, Tracey Parry, about today’s announcement.

She said: “I am not surprised. We thought for a while that the future of the store looked potentially in jeopardy because they closed the upstairs.

“The store has performed reasonably well but I think there was quite a lot of work that needed doing.”

Tracey said that whenever they do shopper surveys people respond that they would like to see a bigger M&S in the town centre.

“People want and expect an M&S. It’s been a landmark shop in the town and a real anchor of the shopping centre,” she said.

She believes the company’s decision to shut the store may be because it plans to open a new store at a retail park in Biggleswade next summer.

She added: “The town is in desperate need of regeneration, There were plans for that to happen before which never happened but the council is now working hard to get some development in the town centre which should attract retails shops like M&S back.”

The company said it is currently considering the proposal and no decision has been made yet. It would not confirm a date when one would be made by.

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