Marks & Spencer has historic Scottish seaside resort in sights amid plans for 20 new stores and 3,400 jobs

Marks & Spencer is looking to accelerate its store overhaul with aims to open 20 new outlets across the UK, including in one of Scotland’s most famous Clyde seaside resorts, in a move that will create some 3,400 jobs.

Over the next financial year, the retail giant will open eight “full-line” stores in shopping centres, as well as in retail parks and high streets across key cities. It will also open a dozen new food halls, including in the historic seaside resort of Largs on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire.

The store plans come under a wider restructure of M&S’s retail footprint, with the group last year revealing it would reduce the number of its full-line stores by 67 to 180 by early 2026. It recently controversially closed a food hall branch in Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal shopping centre and has already shut full-line stores in the likes of Kirkcaldy, Glasgow and Falkirk.

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Chief executive Stuart Machin insisted that stores were a “key part” of the group’s future, alongside online trading. He said: “Our store rotation programme is about making sure we have the right stores, in the right place, with the right space and we’re aiming to rotate from the 247 stores we have today to 180 higher-quality, higher-productivity full-line stores that sell our full clothing, home and food offer whilst also opening over 100 bigger, better food sites. The out-performance of our recently relocated and renewed stores give us the confidence to go faster in our plan.”

Details of the accelerated store openings show that five of the group’s new full-line stores will be based in former Debenhams sites as part of its pledge to regenerate vacant store outlets. They are all located south of the Border. In Scotland, the new Largs food hall is expected to open next winter.

M&S is committing to retail space at a time when many rivals are retrenching from the high street and switching to online only. But the retail stalwart wants to open “bigger, better stores”.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, the investment platform, noted: “The retail environment is not exactly buoyant right now so it feels significant that Marks & Spencer has revealed an investment worth hundreds of millions of pounds to open 20 new stores. The company had already announced plans to close a large number of shops last October so on a net basis its presence in retail parks and on the high street will be reduced. However, it demonstrates physical retail continues to have a role and that Marks & Spencer sees its multi-format stores, with a mix of clothing, homewares and food, as a competitive advantage.”

The announcement comes after M&S recently emerged as one of the winners of the festive trading season, with a 6.3 per cent rise in like-for-like sales across its food halls in the 13 weeks to December 31, while it saw clothing and home comparable store sales rise 8.6 per cent.

Marks & Spencer is undertaking a sweeping store overhaul that involves the closure of dozens of established sites, store relocations and new branch openings.

Mould added: “Coming off the back of the group’s better-than-expected Christmas trading, it seems Marks & Spencer has rediscovered its mojo.”

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