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MS calls for answers following Marks and Spencer’s ‘hammer blow’ store closure

25 Feb 2024 5 minute read
The Marks & Spencer store on Green Street, Neath

Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Williams, has written to Marks and Spencer to question the companies decision to close its Neath store, which she has described as a “hammer blow”.

In her letter, Ms Williams, who represents the South Wales West region and whose constituency office is in Neath town centre, points to a discrepancy between the letter she received from Marks and Spencer which cited declining sales as the reason behind the proposal, and separate confirmation she has received that the Neath store routinely meets – and often exceeds – its target figures.

She has also requested confirmation of whether alternative options are being considered that would maintain the presence of this brand in the town, and what measures are being taken to safeguard the employment of staff should the proposal go ahead.

Negotiation 

Ms Williams has also written to Neath Port Talbot Council to ascertain whether they are in negotiation with company, whether they have reached out to other store owners in the town centre to provide reassurance, and to ask for confirmation if a town centre strategy exists for Neath, and other key town centres in their remit, including Port Talbot, Pontardawe, Briton Ferry and Glynneath.

“The Marks and Spencer store in Neath has a long history of serving the people of this whole area, and its importance to the town cannot be overstated,” she said.

“The store closure would be a hammer blow to the town centre, and the impact will be felt by all the other businesses there, not to mention the people who live in, work in and visit Neath.

“While I understand that the environment for retail is extremely challenging, as any local will tell you, this is one store that is always busy – particularly the food hall. We must have confidence that every other option has been explored, particularly in terms of conversations held with the local council.

“For this reason I have written to both Marks and Spencer and the Council to request further information relating to the process following the announcement and the support that will be made available to staff should the store close.

“I have long campaigned for a thriving Neath town centre, and that’s why it’s important to challenge this proposal when we do not yet have reassurance that every option has been explored.

“In addition, I want to understand the Council’s strategy for Neath, as well as for other town centres in the local authority, and I’d be keen to meet with officers to discuss this, and other relevant matters further.”

Missed

Following news of the closure, the leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Steve Hunt, said: “M&S has been an important part of Neath town centre for almost 90 years and will be missed by many.

“We will, however, continue to work with existing businesses and invest in a town centre in which footfall has increased considerably since the addition of the leisure centre, library and gym complex.

“A strong retail sector makes a vital contribution to the wider well-being of the whole community.” He added: “Despite the challenging economic times and the changes in shopping habits M&S refers to, Neath has recently managed to attract the likes of the Cadno Lounge (part of the Loungers chain), the Welsh House, and the Range, which is occupying the store vacated last year by Wilko.

“I would like to give assurances that the council’s employment support team will be on hand to support those affected by the closure decision and that our economic development and regeneration officers will work hard to mitigate the impact of the loss of what has been a flagship store. As the leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, I’m appealing to M&S to reconsider their decision to close the Neath store.”

Shopping habits

M&S regional manager Allison Jenkins said in the statement confirming the store’s closure: “We are committed to Wales and in the past three years we have invested £18m in updating our Welsh stores and we’re also growing the number of Welsh suppliers we’re working with.

“Shopping habits are changing, and this means we need to focus our investment on the right stores in the right places so we can provide the very best shopping experience for our customers. As part of this transformation, we have today announced to colleagues our proposals to close our Neath store in May, 2024.

“This has been a tough decision but means we can invest in many of our twenty-two other stores in Wales, so we keep pace with the demands of our customers today and in the future. Our priority now is to talk to our colleagues about what this announcement means for them and to support them through these changes.”


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David Parry
David Parry
1 month ago

Evidence should be provided that their claims of poor sales and footfall are true. It seems to me they will make any excuse to close down a store. Our Towns are dieing.With exception of Cardiff of course.

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