Marks and Spencer has announced it will close its town centre store and move out to a new retail development on the edge of Rugby.
The new full-line shop at Elliott’s Field will be triple the size of the High Street branch and is expected to create 60 new jobs.
The company will relocate to a 35,000ft sq ft unit in autumn 2015. All staff from the town centre store will be transferred to the retail park.
A Marks and Spencer spokesperson said: “The new store relocation will offer a much bigger, better M&S, an improved shopping experience and create 60 new jobs.
“It’s an important move that we’ve thought long and hard about. It ensures we are in the best location to serve our customers and, importantly, secures our long term future in Rugby.”
Marks and Spencer will set up at the Elliott’s Field Retail Park off Leicester Road alongside Debenhams, Next, TK Maxx, Outfit and Clarks (see page 3).
Cllr Heather Timms, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for economic development, said: “While it’s disappointing to lose M&S from the town centre, the future of the High Street store has been in doubt for many years due to the company’s desire to operate larger stores which carry a greater range of stock.
“The decision secures the company’s presence in Rugby and creates 60 new jobs, while protecting the jobs of existing staff. It’s also a major investment in the borough by M&S and a real vote of confidence in Rugby as a growing, prosperous place to do business.”
Tom Cochrane, development manager at Hammerson, who own Elliott’s Field Retail Park, said: “Marks and Spencer has long been a major retail presence in Rugby and the new store will capitalise on the loyal catchment by offering an improved experience for customers. The brand will be a great addition to the retail line-up at Elliott’s Field and will help to retain consumer spending in the region.”
Aftab Gaffar, managing director of Rugby First, said the relocation would affect the town centre and the customers it attracts.
He said: “This is hugely disappointing news and a major short term blow for the town centre but one from which it will recover.
“The closure of the town centre store will hit existing customers hard and the new out of town location will be less convenient and more difficult for them to access.
“Marks and Spencer, as owners of the building, must make every effort to secure a new tenant for the vacant store as soon as possible and ensure it is viable for an alternative business to take it over.”
Rugby First said it would welcome the opportunity to work with M&S and discuss a future tenant for the prime location.
Mr Gaffar said:“It is important to note that the town centre continues to attract new businesses with many new enquiries each week for businesses wishing to relocate or set-up in the town.
“We have a wonderful, clean, safe, attractive and easily accessible town centre that offers customers unique products and brands along with unrivalled customer service.
“People enjoy the town centre shopping experience and café culture that exists in Rugby and we are confident that they will continue to support their local town centre.”
Mr Gaffar said high rates and rents were an issue in the town.
“We need to target the high rates and rents in town centres and we would urge national government and landlords to address this as a matter of urgency.
“Out of town retail parks are a real threat to town centres and it is vital we compete with them on all levels.
“Rugby First continues to work closely with town centre businesses and Rugby Borough Council to look at ways to do this including free parking initiatives, marketing, events and special promotions.”