M&S to open new stores with wider aisles and free parking

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers walk past a branch of Marks and Spencer in Altrincham, Britain January 7 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo - PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers walk past a branch of Marks and Spencer in Altrincham, Britain January 7 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo - PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS

Marks & Spencer is to open 20 new shops this year and refurbish others in a £500m investment that will create thousands of jobs across the UK.

The new locations will include eight “destination” branches that will sell all of the company’s product lines, spanning clothing to food, while the other 12 new sites will be food halls.

The planned “destination” branches will have wider aisles and market-style fresh food sections.

They will also have more spacious clothing, beauty and homeware sections, as well as free parking, according to the high street retailer.

Five of the new locations - in Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and Thurrock - will be in units formerly occupied by collapsed department store chain Debenhams. These stores will replace existing M&S city-centre branches that are set to close.

Another, in Purley Way, Croydon, will be brand new.

New food halls will be opened in Stockport, Barnsley and Largs, Scotland, M&S said.

The nine stores confirmed so far will be joined by another 11 that have yet to be announced.

The 20 stores, 12 of which will be food halls, are all scheduled to open in the 2023/24 financial year, after the retailer decided to speed up its store opening programme from five years to three. The expansion will create 3,400 jobs overall.

It is part of plans overall to shrink the M&S estate down from the current 247 stores to 180, moving from having lots of shops to fewer “higher quality, higher productivity” stores.

Stuart Machin, chief executive of M&S, said the new bricks and mortar venues will reflect “how customers want to shop today”.

He added: “The out-performance of our recently relocated and renewed stores, give us the confidence to go faster in our plan.

“Our investment in stores not only delivers a better experience for customers and colleagues, it boosts local communities with new job creation and will help us deliver a more sustainable estate in every sense.”

In the past year, M&S has already opened its newer style of full-line stores in Stevenage, Colchester and Chesterfield.

The group is committing to retail space at a time when many rivals are retrenching from the high street and switching to online only.

But M&S wants to open "bigger, better stores".

It said each of the larger new stores had been designed "with local families in mind", with wider aisles and more spacious clothing and home departments, allowing shoppers to browse .

They will also have new M&S cafes, as well as sustainable initiatives such as Fill Your Own, and offer free car parking.

Its new market-style food halls will stock the full M&S food range, it added.

The group confirmed that while 20 stores have been lined up for launch in 2023-24, it can only announce the locations of nine of these sites so far.

The announcement comes after M&S recently emerged as one of the winners of the Christmas trading season, with a 6.3% rise in like-for-like sales across its food halls in the 13 weeks to Dec 31, while it saw clothing and home comparable store sales rise 8.6%.

It said recent sales across stores already revamped as part of its overhaul had traded better than expected, with clothing and home sales 26% ahead of plans in its new Colchester store.

But it is also investing in its digital offering, with the rollout of click-and-collect to 130 stores across the UK.