High street giant wants Redcar move
Marks and Spencer has invited Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council to identify a new site in Redcar after the retailer announced it is to close its outlet in town.
M&S executives met with senior council representatives to discuss the store which is expected to close in the late summer, resulting in the redeployment of its 44 staff.
The firm has said improved efficiency in its stock control and distribution network is behind the decision and earmarked a further two outlet stores for closure elsewhere.
However, while M&S say the 76-year-old Redcar operation, which became an outlet in 2008, is unsustainable as a food-only business it has held out some hope of a return to the town.
Mark Hannon, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration, who also attended the meeting, said he was disappointed with the closure but determined to stay positive.
Councillor Hannon said: “We’re always looking to improve the retail offer and M&S has said it will consider a proposal for an alternative site in Redcar, which we’re looking at.
“Redcar is one of the region’s better performing town centres for footfall and occupancy levels and has seen remarkable levels of investment.
“Many businesses, including M&S, recognise this but what we must all recognise is that town centre retailers are facing incredibly challenging times.
“The high street has seen an onslaught of competition from supermarkets as well as out of town retail parks, online shopping and improved home deliveries.
“With most of the borough’s town centre properties in private hands and business rates set by central-Government there is only so much within the council’s gift.
“But we believe we are doing everything we can to make Redcar as attractive as possible to retailers and, despite the M&S setback, we are seeing results.”
In April the council opened its £31m leisure, civic and 44-unit business centre, Redcar & Cleveland Leisure and Community Heart.
The building, a tourist attraction in its own right, has freed up the Redcar Bowl site which is under offer from a private developer intent on building multiuse leisure facilities.
Last year the £30m seafront regeneration scheme was completed, boasting an esplanade with water features, public art and a lighting installation that runs along the 2.7km seawall and sweeps up the 80ft Redcar Beacon.
In addition to protecting hundreds of homes and businesses the seafront developments have seen a dramatic increase in footfall but this is not included in town centre footfall figures.
Year to date footfall for town centre itself, to June 2014, was down 1.1% but prior to the completion of the improvements it was down 5.9%, according to independent retail analysis.
Meanwhile, this year’s national year to date footfall figure has remained steady but regionally many town centres are experiencing sharper declines than Redcar’s.
Redcar’s retail occupancy rates compare favourably too and of the town centre’s 369 retail premises, 8.2% were empty at the end of the first quarter of 2014 - compared with 10.6% nationally and 10.7% regionally.
The M&S Simply Food store, which opened in at Cleveland Retail Park, Skippers Lane, in 2012, is believed to be unaffected by the closure.
During the meeting, Cllr Hannon handed over an 11,000-strong petition, on behalf of the Redcar Business Association, urging M&S to stay in Redcar.