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Retailer confirms falling sales behind ‘town killing’ store closure

04 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Marks and Spencer Neath. Photo via Google

Marks and Spencer has confirmed that sales in a town centre store earmarked for closure have fallen by close to 10% in the last decade.

The company’s UK and Ireland Operations Director revealed that “sales performance and our overall sales” in the Neath store declined by 9.3% over the past 10 years, in a response to a letter from Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru’s Member of the Senedd for South Wales West.

Ms Williams wrote to the retailer to express concerns about the proposed closure, announced last month, which she described as a “town killing” move.

She asked for details of the sales figures for the store, and questioned whether alternative options are being considered that would maintain the presence of the brand in Neath town centre.


The company’s response also confirmed that the Neath store is “not suitable” for reconfiguring into a food hall, nor is it looking to relocate to a smaller site.

Ms Williams said: “The letter does not confirm how much of that decline has been since Covid, nor does it confirm whether the store in fact remains profitable, despite the dip in profits.”

“Retail across the board has been impacted by Covid and most stores have felt the hit of rising costs on their profit line. If Welsh Government is serious about making ‘our cities, towns and villages even better places in which to live and work’ then they need to take more steps to ensure businesses are able to run there,” she added.

“If the current M&S premises is no longer suitable, refurbishment costs are too high, and they’re not looking to relocate to one of the new or empty units in the town centre, or reconfigure into a food hall, then I can’t see what other option remains for this much valued store. I’m afraid that closure looks very much like a done deal in all but name.

“This will be a devastating blow to the town and its residents. While M&S talks about the closure of the Neath store meaning it can keep investing in other Welsh stores, including existing stores in Cardiff and Swansea, and new stores in Llandudno and Wrexham, this doesn’t help the people of Neath, who have served the company and furnished them with profits over so many decades.”


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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