Hull Council statement confirms Marks and Spencer relocation talks

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 16 Jan 2019

Hull City Council and Marks & Spencer are in ongoing talks over alternate locations for its Whitefriargate store.

Marks & Spencer announced on Tuesday morning it had entered into a consultation over plans to close its city centre branch.  The store, which has been open for at least 118 years, is one of 17 stores nationwide which faces the axe.

However, in a twist, a statement from the council has revealed talks over the future of M&S in Hull have actually been going on for the last 18 months, and are now focused on finding a possible new home for the supermarket.

Councillor Daren Hale, portfolio holder for regeneration and economic investment, said: “We have been in discussion at a senior level with Marks & Spencer about the future of their operations in Hull for over 18 months and these active discussions are continuing.

Councillor Daren Hale said talks with M&S had been ongoing for 18 months

"The layout and construction of its Whitefriargate store does not lend itself to conversion to a more modern retail format and these discussions are now focusing on possible alternative locations.

“Hull, like most cities, is being affected by these major changes in retail behaviour. We are tackling these issues head on.

Read more: Hope for Hull's Marks and Spencer as firm releases new statement amid calls for it to stay in city

"City centres and high streets need to adapt and evolve, and the council is working to support this."

The M&S news has been met with a mix of emotions, from sadness and anger to genuine shock.

Marks and Spencers (Katie Pugh)

The boss of HullBID earlier described the planned closure of M&S as “devastating to both the business community and the public.”

Kathryn Shillito, city centre manager, said: “We are extremely disappointed to learn the news of M&S' potential closure, and our thoughts go with the 93 staff who are undergoing consultation.

“We have built a good relationship with the manager and team, partnering closely with them as part of the Healthy High Streets initiative as well as their participation in HullBID events.

“There is a real sense of nostalgia around Whitefriargate and the M&S building particularly which has been the anchor tenant for decades and the loss will certainly change the dynamics of the street.”

Watch: The council's challenge to save Whitefriargate

Hull City Council also spoke of its disappointment at the announcement from M&S, and said it was "a reflection of national issues faced by high streets."

Cllr Hale said: “Hull City Council is extremely disappointed at today’s announcement by Marks & Spencer that it is consulting on the closure of its Whitefriargate store and our thoughts are with their employees in Hull at this very difficult time.

Read more: Hull city centre boss says planned Marks and Spencer closure is 'devastating'

"This is one of 17 stores affected across the country and, sadly, this is a reflection of the national issues faced by our high streets as retail habits change and increasing numbers of people shop online.

"Last month, it was announced that a deal had been agreed that ensured House of Fraser would remain in Hull, despite the store initially announcing that it would close.

"This followed months of similar discussions between House of Fraser, the council and the landlord."

The city centre shop is the last "full" M&S store in Hull and the East Riding, with only foodhalls open in Anlaby, Kingswood and Beverley.

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