As one flagship Marks and Spencer store moves out, what next for the empty town centre retail space?
- Credit: Archant
On Tuesday, a town centre will lose its biggest store and it is unknown what, if anything, will ever move in in its place.
Marks and Spencer is closing the doors of its store in Clacton for the last time, and opening a food hall in nearby Walton-on-the-Naze the following day.
While the move is good news for shoppers in Walton, it is a harsh blow for Clacton residents, as the town has suffered the loss of several retail outlets in the last year which have not yet been re-filled.
There are currently 15 commercial retail properties for rent in Clacton town centre listed on Rightmove. But new businesses are also opening up on the town’s outskirts.
An escape room, Tricky Escape Clacton, recently opened on Old Road, and this week, a new McDonald’s opened opposite Tesco supermarket, bringing the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the town to three.
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Although the Marks and Spencer building on Pier Avenue in Clacton is owned by Tendring District Council, a spokesperson for the council explained that Marks and Spencer has a lease on the building until March 2027.
He added: “We can make plans any time we like – we own the building – but ending the lease early, and any consequences of that, would have to be factored in to that and inform any decision we make.”
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Zoe Fairley, Tendring District Council cabinet member for investment and growth, said the authority and partners were looking at ways to adapt to a new future for Clacton town centre.
“While it is disappointing that Marks and Spencer in Clacton town centre is closing down, it represents a wider change in the retail environment and an opportunity to do something different in the town centre,” Cllr Fairley said.
“That is why we have pulled together a Town Centre Working Group to look at options for how Clacton may look in the future, and how we can achieve that.
“The face of retail is changing in this country – Clacton is not the only town losing its M&S – and we must embrace this change positively.”
What do Clacton resident want to see fill the space left by M&S?
Marie Hill and Sadie Kelly say they both would like to see a Primark or Matalan move into the former M&S building.
But David Cartwright thinks this is unlikely. “Primark wouldn’t even entertain the idea of opening in a quiet town like Clacton, the likelihood of any big well known retailer coming to Clacton town centre is low at best,” he said.
Emma Loader says she would like to see a “universal store” that doesn’t specialise in one thing. “As a small town we don’t have many essentials as it is, or luxuries. We need something that is convenient and sells everything.”
Mandie Howard said: “Quality shops are desperately needed in Clacton, so local people shop local and save towns. Car parking space is needed too.”