M&S downsizes retail floors to make way for office space

New space will occupy just over two floors as bricks-and-mortar reels from online shift

Century-old supermarket chain Marks & Spencer (M&S) is gearing up for a redevelopment of its Oxford Street store, as Covid-19’s influence takes more shoppers online.

Under the proposed plans, M&S will reduce its upper shopping floors to just two and a half, making way for several floors of office space, and potential leisure space or a gym.

The building, which is at the March Arch end of the famous London shopping highstreet, opened in 1930 and covers five floors of retail, including beauty, homeware and apparel, across three buildings that have merged in its 90-year history.

However, due to the pandemic and accelerated shift to online shopping, M&S is likely to no longer need this space as part of its bricks-and-mortar portfolio.

M&S’ announcement comes months after competitor John Lewis applied for planning permission to convert 45% of its Oxford Street store into office space to rent out.

Elsewhere, Oxford Street’s shopping entourage is thinning with the closure of Debenhams’ stores, while the future of the street’s landmark ‘big Topshop’ hangs in the balance after the collapse of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group.

M&S has said that all of its staff at the Marble Arch destination will be redeployed to surrounding M&S stores during the redevelopment and will be rehired at the new Marble Arch upon its reopening.

“The launch of our proposal to redevelop Marble Arch today is the latest example of how we are shifting gears in creating a store estate fit for the future,” said M&S’ Retail, Property & Operations Director.

“Under our Never the Same Again programme, we are focused on emerging stronger from the pandemic, and today’s proposal not only means we can redevelop and modernise our store so that it better serves the local community on the UK’s destination high street, but by taking an assertive approach to the management of our asset base we can unlock additional value from the site at the same, and further support our transformation.”

Over the summer of 2020, M&S said it would cut 7,000 jobs over the following three months across its stores and management team in order to weather the storm of the pandemic.

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