Walsall Marks & Spencer store to close on August 11
Marks & Spencer in Walsall will close its doors for the last time on August 11, despite efforts from council leaders to try and save the department store.
After 84 years it will leaving gaping hole in the heart of the town's shopping centre.
At the same time nearly 100 shop staff, many of whom have worked at the store for decades, face redundancy.
Andy Barber, head of region for the West Midlands at Marks & Spencer, said: “Proposing to close the store was a difficult decision.
"Over the past few weeks we’ve been consulting with our colleagues and, following this rigorous process, the decision has been made to close the store on Saturday, August 11.
He added: “We’d like to thank our customers for the feedback they’ve given us and we hope to see lots of them continuing to shop with us at our other stores in the area, including our nearby Wednesbury Foodhall."
The Walsall branch has been a mainstay for the town’s shoppers since it opened in Park Street on June 1, 1934.
The branch became part of the Saddlers Centre in 1980.
Walsall council bosses had hoped to persuade the stores group to stay.
The council took out a £13.8 million loan, described as high-risk, to buy the Saddlers Centre in a controversial move last year but leadership at the authority has now changed.
New council leader Mike Bird had opposed the decision by the previous Labour administration to buy the struggling centre.
Reacting to the latest news, Councillor Bird said: "We have got a meeting with them on June 22 (this Friday). I have emailed them and said I hope, even at this late stage, we might be able to change their mind.
"Marks & Spencer is an institution in Walsall, it has been here for 85 years this year. I understand from a commercial aspect they have got to make a profit.
"If they close their doors, which they look like they will, it will be another nail in the coffin for the retail offer. We will have to look at what we can do with the retail space."
The closure was first proposed a month ago, as part of a nationwide cull by the department store chain.
Marks & Spencer says it will close more than 100 stores by 2022 as it accelerates a transformation programme that will see thousands of jobs put at risk.
The closures will affect its clothing and home stores, which have under-performed for several years. Although not named in the latest list of closures, the M&S strategy casts a dark shadow over the future of its other traditional clothing and home stores at Wolverhampton, Stafford Riverside, Merry Hill and Kidderminster.
The closures are part of a five-year turnaround plan spearheaded by chairman Archie Norman and chief executive Steve Rowe.
They have been seeking to save costs through store closures and shutting distribution centres as part of a wide-ranging efficiency drive as the company’s financial performance deteriorates.
The day after the closure plan was unveiled last month, M&S revealed a collapse in its profits in the year to the end of March, down 62 per cent to £66.8 million, hit by £321m in costs linked to store closures.
M&S named 14 stores as earmarked for closure as part of its announcement in May with a total of 872 employees affected.
That list included the Saddlers Centre store in Walsall, where 94 staff work.