Fashion retailer set to axe town store as it tightens its belt

M&Co in Newmarket high street, which is earmarked for closure Picture: GOOGLEMAPS

M&Co in Newmarket high street, which is earmarked for closure Picture: GOOGLEMAPS - Credit: Archant

Fashion chain M&Co is set to close 47 of its stores across the UK – including one in Suffolk.

The retailer says it is shedding 380 jobs as part of a major restructuring plan aimed at securing its long-term future – but most of its East Anglian stores will be spared.

Among the stores to go will be its branch in Newmarket High Street where nine jobs will be lost.

But its other Suffolk stores in Beccles, Felixstowe, Haverhill, Hadleigh, Sudbury, Stowmarket and Woodbridge have avoided the axe.

MORE – Company plans to double its workforce with major factory expansionIts stores in Essex and in Norfolk also remain safe. They include branches in East Dereham, Diss, Hunstanton, Fakenham, Cromer and Attleborough in Norfolk and Brightlingsea Co-op, Witham, Braintree, Frinton, Maldon, Brightlingsea, Stanway, Burnham Co-op, Saffron Walden and Halstead in Essex.

Mackays Stores Ltd hired Deloitte as administrators back in April, describing it as a “necessary step” following the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced most UK retailers to close their doors for nearly four months.

It believes its reduced network of stores, focused on local high streets, will strengthen its position, “with the coronavirus outbreak reducing appetites to travel longer distances on public transport”.

Chief executive Andy McGeoch said the company took a “huge financial hit” after having to shut its stores in March due to the pandemic.

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“We reopened most stores in June and have been exploring every possible option, but it was obvious that the business, as previously structured, would remain under severe pressure from the ongoing challenges of Covid-19,” he said.

“It quickly became clear the best way to save most jobs and most stores was to enter administration, with a new company acquiring the assets of the old business, and this process has now been finalised.”

Mr McGeoch said staff in stores and at its Glasgow and London headquarters will be hit by the job cuts.

“It’s not a decision we took lightly, after more than 50 years of trading, but it gives us a sustainable basis from which to rebuild, with the majority of our staff keeping their jobs and 218 stores in high streets across the country remaining open.

“The most difficult part of this process is undoubtedly seeing around 380 colleagues in stores and at our Glasgow and London operations leaving the business.

“It’s a terrible situation for them and I’m desperately sorry that we couldn’t come up with a viable plan which would have saved all the jobs.”

The retailer, which was founded in Scotland in 1961, is the latest retailer to announce cuts, following major job losses at WH Smiths and Dixons Carphone.

Retail has been one of the sectors hardest-hit by the pandemic, with long-term shop closures and social distancing having a hugely negative impact and his business taking a huge financial hit, said Mr McGeoch.

The firm was founded in 1961 and has expanded from its Scottish roots to towns throughout the UK.

With the coronavirus outbreak reducing the public appetites to travel longer distances on public transport, the company believes that its network of local high street stores will play a major role in the company’s future performance.

“The response from our loyal customer base during lockdown was phenomenal,” said Mr McGeoch. “We had a steady stream of requests for updates, with some customers even posting letters through the doors asking when we were reopening. It’s hugely encouraging to hear our customers say how much they have missed us after months away.”