Update - Banbury M&S store in Bridge Street is set to close - council leader says it would be 're-purposed'
Banbury was reeling today with news that the Bridge Street Marks and Spencer store is set to close but Cherwell District Council has not lost confidence.
Cllr Barry Wood, leader of the council, says plans for development of Castle Quay would include 're-purpose' of the M&S Bridge Street store.
In a statement to the Banbury Guardian he said: "Marks & Spencer has played an important role in the Castle Quay shopping centre and we are pleased that their store at Banbury Gateway will remain open to serve the local community.
"Whilst we are sorry Marks & Spencer may be leaving, the closure of the store presents an opportunity to re-purpose the space to continue to attract exciting new brands to Banbury for the community and visitors alike. Marks & Spencer are currently undergoing their employee consultation.
“We will now be working with a professional team on the future of the space and will investigate a number of options for the re-purposing of the store should the store close.
“The Castle Quay shopping centre continues to attract great brands and retailers are committed to their future within the shopping centre, as demonstrated by the up-sizing of JD Sports and a number of stores renewing their leases in a commitment to the shopping centre.
“Since acquiring the shopping centre in January 2018, Cherwell District Council has set in motion plans to transform Castle Quay in line with its vision to create a leading retail and leisure destination for the whole town of Banbury for the benefit of residents and visitors in the years to come, with new initiatives such as Lock29 (due to open in the spring) and Castle Quay Waterfront. The shopping centre will continue to be upgraded and we look forward to this change in its future for the whole community."
The Banbury Guardian expects to receive a statement confirming the closure this afternoon. The move comes after pre-Christmas reports of poor clothes sales and profits plunging although its food stores were 'outperforming the market'.
The chain is said to be undergoing a 'transformation plan' led by chief executive Steve Rowe.
The Banbury Guardian has heard that shocked staff have been told about the branch's closure proposal and that many were in tears.
Banbury will still have a M&S store at the Gateway Retail Park alongside the M40 but this will be out of town and is not as easily accessible by public transport as the Bridge Street store.
The store was the first major store to come to the Castle Shopping Centre which was later extended to become Castle Quay, when Debenhams arrived in town.