Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has expressed his disappointment that – despite a personal invitation from Alex – the Chief Executive of Marks and Spencer will not visit Stockton to discuss the proposed closure of its High Street store.
This follows the announcement last week that the Stockton branch of M&S will be closed by 2019, resulting in potential job losses and the end of a Stockton high street presence of more than 100 years. Alex argued that the recent successes seen in Stockton High Street – including a £38m investment programme, winning 2016’s ‘Rising Star’ category at the High Street Awards, and a major renovation of the Globe Theatre – should result in a rethink from M&S, and invited the CEO, Steve Rowe, to visit the area to see for himself.
Despite this, and in a response to Alex this week, Mr Rowe has confirmed that ‘even with these positive regeneration improvements’ the closure will go ahead – citing changing trends such as online shopping. Alex’s invitation was left unanswered.
Stockton High Street has undergone vast improvements over recent years, and it has been helped by having a Marks and Spencer’s presence, as larger shops such as these support the footfall for smaller, and independent shops. Removing a high street branch will also hurt those shoppers who either cannot shop online or do not own a car, and getting to Teesside Park will not be practical for many of their customers.
Unfortunately, it appears that the response I received is a standard one, drafted by someone else and adapted where necessary for different areas. It’s hugely disappointing that the Chief Exec of M&S will not take up my invitation to visit Stockton and see the High Street for himself – I’m sure that he would have benefited from such a trip.