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Victim of supply problems linked to Brexit, the British chain announced Thursday that it would close 11 stores in France. A hundred jobs are threatened in France.
Bad news for lovers of cheddar and other English mustard. The brand Marks & Spencer will close eleven stores in France, more than half of its twenty sites in the country, blaming the supply problems linked to Brexit.
“The long and complex export procedures now in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union severely limit the supply of fresh and chilled products from the UK to Europe” and “weigh on The availability of products [en France]”, justifies the group Thursday, September 16.
M & S’s partnership with SFH, one of its two partners in France, “will stop, which will result in the closure of its eleven franchise stores”, mainly located in Paris, by end of the year, the statement said.
About a hundred jobs are affected by these closures, according to Marks & Spencer, which specifies that SFH “has opened consultations” with the employees in question.
However, the nine Marks & Spencer stores owned by Lagardere Travel Retail, the group’s second partner in France, will remain open. These are shops located in airports, train stations or metro stations which “will continue to operate normally”.
“M&S has a long history of serving its clients in France and it is not a decision that we, or our partner SFH, have taken lightly”, regretted Paul Friston, head of Marks & Spencer for the international market. .
The group’s website in France, managed directly by M&S and which mainly sells clothing and home products, will not be affected by store closings.
“The bureaucracy that accompanies major changes like Brexit can cause damage, especially for businesses already facing headwinds,” said Sophie Lund-Yates, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
But “it would be wrong to see this as a total derailment of M&S activities in France”, while shops in stations or airports “are likely to be more resistant than those located in town in the long term”.
Despite the trade agreement signed between London and Brussels just before Christmas, the effective British exit from the United Kingdom complicated and made import-export procedures more expensive, especially for fresh and meat products, with many new formalities.
In the wake of Brexit, which became reality on January 1, the group had already announced in April to withdraw all fresh products from its stores in the Czech Republic to focus on frozen products and those that can be stored at room temperature.
Regain financial health
This is not the first time that M&S has withdrawn from the European market: in 2001, the group, in difficulty, took the radical decision to close all its stores on the continent, including eighteen in France, to refocus on the UK market.
The brand made its comeback in 2011, but again announced five years later the closure of seven stores in France and more than a hundred around the world.
“Given this history and the desire of current CEO Steve Rowe to restore the brand to its financial health, if not its raison d’être, consumers and shareholders should not be surprised by this decision to reduce its presence in France, “according to Russ Mold, analyst at AJ Bell.
“Brexit made things even more complicated” and operations in France were not a priority, he said, while “M&S had publicly complained about the difficulties in supplying its stores in Northern Ireland – which is part of the United Kingdom “.
>> To read on France24.com: Brexit: the sausages of discord between London and Brussels
Long in decline, the chain of stores announced at the end of August a jump in its sales in food and clothing, after a restructuring plan launched more than a year ago due to the pandemic of closing stores , cut 7,000 jobs and focus on online sales to stem the drop in attendance.
The British government, faced with the country’s supply difficulties, for its part decided on Tuesday to postpone the introduction of full checks for products from the EU.
New rules on the importation of animal products were to be introduced from next month, but the British government has said it wants to give companies “more time to prepare for these controls which will be gradually put in place. throughout 2022 “.