Following the announcement of the closure of the M&S Foodhall in the centre of Lichfield in January, Michael Fabricant contacted Marks & Spencer Group plc to determine what would be the future presence of M&S in the City.
Michael says “The closure of the M&S store in Lichfield is regrettable. Although the loyal staff there will all be deployed to other branches, both they – and customers like me – will miss the store, its central location, and its unique product range. This is sadly part of a major restructuring by M&S with around 100 branch closures across the UK. The costs of staffing and distribution make smaller food stores, owned by large chains, unviable.
“However, I wanted to determine whether M&S had written off Lichfield completely. I had previously been involved in attracting Waitrose to Lichfield and was aware from them of the attractiveness of the location and demographics for that type of food store. In particular, I asked whether M&S could confirm that the demographics of Lichfield and in particular its income per capita make it a suitable location for a larger M&S food branch. And whether, if that were the case, an alternative and larger site will be sought for a future potential branch in the Lichfield area.
“I told David Leach from M&S’ Head Office in London: ‘I know that you aim to redeploy staff to other M&S stores, but it would be encouraging to them and your customers alike if some hope could be given of a more viable branch opening in Lichfield in the future. I know that Lichfield District Council hope actively to assist the company in finding an alternative site.’”
On behalf of M&S David Leach says “We do remain interested in opening a larger food store in Lichfield as it is a market of interest. We had previously looked at relocating from our current location to a larger M&S Foodhall as part of the Friarsgate scheme which has since collapsed, but there are no suitable alternative sites available in the Lichfield area at the moment.
“We will keep in touch with the Council to consider any future opportunities as they arise, but we do have quite demanding criteria for new M&S food store developments given the current challenges in the retail market.
“Our decision related to the small store format and our current location in Lichfield, combined with the store’s relatively weak commercial performance. That meant we decided not to renew the lease as it has come up for renewal.”
Michael adds “I hope that Lichfield District Council will now be as pro-active finding a site for M&S as they were some years back when I first introduced them to the John Lewis Partnership which owns Waitrose supermarkets. I remain cautiously optimistic that we will eventually see a larger M&S back in Lichfield.”