M&S to close stores in East Anglia

A TOWN economy has suffered a major New Year setback with the closure of two high street stores and fears that up to 150 jobs could be lost.

Annie Davidson

A TOWN economy has suffered a major New Year setback with the closure of two high street stores and fears that up to 150 jobs could be lost.

Sudbury's Marks and Spencer store was yesterday listed as among the 27 UK shops set to close - putting 29 jobs under threat. The M&S store in Braintree will also close.

The shock news came just a day after Sudbury's Woolworths store, which neighbours M&S, closed and more than 70 staff at Fleetwood Caravans, in neighbouring Long Melford, were told that the company had gone into administration.

South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo warned that worse could follow - urging constituents to brace themselves for “more bad news to come”.

Describing the planned closure of the M&S store as a tragedy, Mr Yeo said: “This is extremely bad news for the town and a terrible blow just after Christmas.

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“I have great sympathy for the people who have lost their jobs and their families. Sadly, I fear that this is the pattern for 2009 and we will see a series of closures in the retail sector as it is suffering very badly indeed.

“The outlook for the whole economy remains extremely poor. Business and consumer confidence has more or less collapsed and will take a long time to rebuild. The prospects remain extremely worrying and these closures could have a very negative effect on the rest of the town.”

The closure of Woolworths, with the loss of 43 jobs, and yesterday's news about the town's M&S Simply Food store, which only opened three years ago, leaves shoppers facing two massive holes in Sudbury's retail landscape.

Meanwhile, there was also concern in Braintree at the closure of its M&S food store.

Brenda Baker, manager of George Yard Shopping Centre, said yesterday: “Our first thoughts are with the staff, it is like a bereavement really.

“We have already lost quite a number of staff from Woolworths, the Adams staff are not knowing what is happening and Zavvi staff are equally not sure what is going on.

“Now are we adding to them 20 or so staff from Simply Food.”

Stuart Rose, chairman of M&S, thanked workers for their commitment to the stores and said: “We are very sadly putting forward this proposal and will listen carefully to any suggestions employees have for alternatives.”

Affected members of staff will now embark on a period of consultation before a final decision is made.

A nightmare 24 hours for Sudbury's economy started on Tuesday morning when the entire workforce at award-winning Fleetwood Caravans was told the company had gone into administration.

One worker, Tina Newman, wrote on the EADT website: “I was one of those workers who got made redundant at Fleetwood yesterday - it broke my heart along with a lot of others. It was more like a family working there and I will miss everybody so much. Good luck to everybody and take care.”