'We need Cabot Circus to thrive' - why shopping centre bosses axed House of Fraser for M&S

G.V of corner at House of Fraser, Cabot Circus where a women was hit by a car while using the crossing
-Credit: (Image: David Betts Photography)

Bosses at Cabot Circus have explained more about their decision to axe House of Fraser and get a huge new Marks & Spencer store in - saying their ‘vision’ is to create a shopping centre destination that ‘thrives in the heart of Bristol’.

More information has emerged since Bristol Live broke the news that the chief executive of M&S had announced a £21 million investment to create a new flagship store at Cabot Circus.

Bosses at the shopping centre have revealed the new M&S will include a large cafe, grocery supermarket as well as a ‘clothing and home offer’.

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The news came as something of a surprise to staff at House of Fraser, which currently occupies the flagship Cabot Circus store over three storeys of the city centre shopping mall. Some staff said they knew nothing about the news their store was set to close until they read it on Bristol Live at lunchtime on Tuesday.

What will happen to the House of Fraser store remains uncertain - Bristol LIve has asked House of Fraser if it will move to a new location or close completely, and a response is awaited.

Bosses at Cabot Circus said bringing in M&S would ‘reposition’ the shopping centre, and would ‘unlock a significant investment to improve the customer experience’.

Moving out House of Fraser and replacing it with M&S is the ‘latest in a string of deals that will enhance Cabot Circus by bringing high-profile brands and new uses’ to the shopping centre, a spokesperson said.

“Our vision is to create a leading multi-purpose destination that thrives in the heart of Bristol,” said Harry Badham, the chief development and asset repositioning officer at Hammerson, the firm that owns Cabot Circus.

“A new M&S is an important step forward in this strategy, as we strengthen the occupier mix and broaden the use and purpose of Cabot Circus,” he added.

“The deal demonstrates the continued strong demand we are seeing from our partners for the right city centre location. M&S has consistently been a highly demanded store by our catchment, and we look forward to the new store opening,” he said.

Patiently waiting for House of Fraser to open for the first time at Cabot Circus
Patiently waiting for House of Fraser to open for the first time at Cabot Circus, on the first day Cabot Circus opened its doors, back in 2008 -Credit:Gavin Crilly

Bristol Live understands the M&S takeover is part of a wider strategy from bosses at Cabot Circus to be ‘on the front foot’ and bring in new and more varied stores, restaurants and venues as Bristol’s city centre generally faces increasingly uncertain times.

With the Showcase cinema having closed in Cabot Circus itself, M&S and Debenhams gone from Broadmead, The Galleries shopping centre set to close if planning permission is granted for a major redevelopment, and thousands of new homes planned in a series of tower blocks in the heart of the city, bosses at Cabot Circus are understood to be keen to radically change the shopping centre’s offering to keep it thriving into the mid and late 2020s.

“The repositioning with a new M&S unlocks a significant investment to improve the customer experience and merchandising at Cabot Circus,” a spokesperson for Hammerson said.

“Alongside their latest clothing and home offer, the new store will bring a market leading grocery offer and M&S café, which aligns to Hammerson’s strategy of diversifying the purpose of its destinations and appealing to a wider audience. This is the fourth letting Hammerson has achieved with M&S as part of their store rotation programme and demonstrates Hammerson working closely with key partners to achieve shared business objectives.

An artist impression of what the new M&S store will look like in Cabot Circus
An artist impression of what the new M&S store will look like in Cabot Circus -Credit:M&S

“This is the latest in a string of deals that will enhance Cabot Circus by bringing high-profile brands and new uses including entertainment, dining, family and social concepts. Recent new openings include Stradivarius and sportswear brand, Lids, alongside German Doner Kebab, whilst a new golf experience at Treetop Golf is also set to open later this year,” he added.

The new M&S will be one of the biggest in the country. “Our store rotation strategy is all about providing customers with the right stores with the right space in the right locations and this spot in Bristol is exactly where we want to be,” said M&S property director Will Smith said.

“When it opens, the Cabot Circus store will be one of the largest and most modern M&S stores in the UK, offering the full range to customers and marking a welcome return for M&S to Bristol City Centre,” he added.