Marks & Spencer has pulled out of Oldham’s £60m Princes Gate development, telling the local authority that it will not take up its option to occupy 51,000 sq ft at the retail-led gateway scheme.
The retailer said that it will instead search for a food-only site in the area. It does not currently have an outlet in Oldham.
M&S reaffirmed its commitment to neighbouring Rochdale, where it is to relocate its store to the Rochdale Riverside project. M&S said the decision on Oldham, where contracts were exchanged in November 2014, “does not affect other planned new M&S stores. M&S remains committed to the relocation of its full-line store in Rochdale to the Rochdale Riverside development.”
A spokesman told Place North West that the firm will not comment on plans for other North West locations at this stage.
Steve Bennett, director of property for M&S, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we understand that the council and local residents will be disappointed. However, we are modernising M&S and we believe improving our full-line stores in the North West and opening food-only stores in the area will better serve our customers and help build the M&S of the future.”
The news follows the recent announcement by Steve Rowe, who arrived as chief executive in April, of a restructuring strategy that will see clothing and homeware offered in 60 fewer locations. Over five years, around 30 stores will be closed and others downsized or converted to food-only. Up to 200 new food-only stores could be opened.
Cllr Jean Stretton, leader of Oldham Council, said: “We are naturally disappointed. It’s well known that Marks & Spencer has been experiencing difficulties in a very competitive market. M&S were clear that although they will not be taking space at Prince’s Gate, this does not mean necessarily that they’re closing the door on coming to Oldham. We are continuing to have discussions and we are hopeful of a positive future outcome.”
Stretton added that discussions with other investors are ongoing following the October opening of the £37m Old Town Hall leisure complex.
The door may not be closed, but this is a major blow for the scheme where M&S was intended to be not just the anchor tenant, but a signifier of the town’s aspirations in fronting a project that will include up to 800 homes along with 150,000 sq ft of retail.