Marks & Spencer will close 11 stores in France due to supply crisis affecting fresh and chilled food
- Stringent European border restrictions left its Paris shops with empty shelves
- Border controls after Brexit delayed lorries and wasted hundreds of tons of food
- Britain’s biggest high street retailer to close 11 franchise stores with partner SFH
- Nine franchise stores with partner Lagardere Travel Retail will continue to trade
Marks & Spencer will scale back its French business after announcing plans today to close 11 of its stores due to fresh and chilled food supply issues following Brexit.
Britain’s biggest high street retailer has suffered over the Channel in recent months after stringent European border restrictions left its Paris shops with empty shelves.
M&S has been holding talks with its French franchise partners after border controls following Brexit delayed lorries and left hundreds of tons of food wasted.
The 11 stores with its partner SFH Invest, which are located mainly on the high streets of Paris, are set to close by the end of the year.
M&S will remain in discussions with partner Lagardere Travel Retail over its other nine French stores at airports and railway stations, which will continue to trade.
The forced retreat will come as a blow to M&S, which relaunched its French business to much fanfare almost exactly a decade ago. At the time its bosses hailed the return with one, ex-chairman Lord Rose, bemoaning a previous retreat in 2001 as ‘tragic’.
Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer store in Paris are pictured in January amid a supply crisis
A Marks and Spencer store is seen in the covered Jouffroy passage in Paris in December 2018
But the latest plan puts the future of all the remaining nine stores in doubt. The M&S website in France, which mainly sells clothing and home products, is unaffected.
Paul Friston, managing director of M&S International, said: ‘M&S has a long history of serving customers in France and this is not a decision we or our partner SFH have taken lightly.
Where are the 20 M&S stores in France?
- M&S Food Roissy Pôle
- M&S Food Charles de Gaulle T1
- M&S Food Ledru Rollin
- M&S Food Charles de Gaulle T2E
- M&S Food Gare de l’Est
- M&S Food Châtelet les Halles
- M&S Food Saint Michel
- M&S Food Lille
- M&S Food Avenue du Général Leclerc
- M&S Food La Défense
- M&S Food Grévin
- M&S Food Saint Germain
- M&S Food Grand Rex
- M&S Food Saint Lazare
- M&S Food Charles De Gaulle T2F
- M&S Food Palais des Congrès
- M&S Food Passy
- M&S Food Franklin Roosevelt
- M&S Food So Ouest
- M&S Food Montparnasse Railway Station
‘However, as things stand today, the supply chain complexities in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union, now make it near impossible for us to serve fresh and chilled products to customers to the high standards they expect, resulting in an ongoing impact to the performance of our business.’
A spokesman added: ‘The lengthy and complex export processes now in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union are significantly constraining the supply of fresh and chilled product from the UK into Europe and continuing to impact product availability for customers and the performance of our business in France.’
Earlier this year, M&S overhauled its Czech operation, removing all its fresh and chilled foods from stores and replacing them with expanded ranges of products that have a long shelf life in order to fill gaps.
Lengthy border delays have meant food arrived on the Continent past its sell-by date or was turned back to British warehouses.
In July, M&S chairman Archie Norman told The Mail on Sunday that ‘Byzantine’ regulations meant only two-thirds of sandwiches were getting to stores.
Most of them only have a shelf life of 48 hours, so even short delays can make them unsaleable.
The diplomatic row over draconian enforcement of border controls has been branded the ‘sausage wars’.
The delays have affected food arriving in Britain from the Continent and consignments shipped to Northern Ireland.
The disruption has also left gaps on the shelves of stores there.
Some 16 of the 20 Marks & Spencer stores in France are located in the centre of Paris
The stores outside central Paris are at Charles de Gaulle Airport (three), and the other in Lille
M&S chairman Archie Norman said in July that ‘Byzantine’ regulations meant only two-thirds of sandwiches were getting to stores
Physical copies of export and import documents are required amid reports that officials are demanding up to 700 pages of certification from drivers.
An extension to the grace period before full border checks are introduced in Northern Ireland was announced last week.
But continued delays are expected with checks already in force resulting in some goods, particularly chilled food and meats, not reaching stores.
The extension does not apply to goods passing from mainland Europe, which will be subject to even greater documentation demands from October 1.
Last month, M&S upped its profit targets after seeing a 10.8 per cent jump in food sales for the 19 weeks to August and higher online clothing sales.