British retailer Marks and Spencer announced on Thursday that it would close 11 shops in France “over the next few months” – more than half of its 20 sites in the country – due to Brexit-related supply problems.
“The lengthy and complex export procedures now in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union are severely limiting the supply of fresh and chilled produce from the UK to Europe and continue to impact on the availability of products for our customers” in France, the group said in a statement.
M&S will end its partnership with SFH, one of its two partners in France, “resulting in the closure of its 11 franchise shops”, primarily located in Paris, by the end of the year, the statement said.
However, the nine Marks and Spencer shops owned by Lagardere Travel Retail, the group’s remaining partner in France, will stay open. These are shops located in airports, train stations or metro stations that “will continue to operate normally”.
“M&S has a long history of serving its customers in France and this is not a decision that we, or our partner SFH, have taken lightly,” said Paul Friston, head of Marks and Spencer’s international department, in the statement.
In April, the group announced that it would remove all fresh products from its shops in the Czech Republic, concentrating on frozen and non-chilled products instead.
The group announced a jump in sales in food and clothing at the end of August, which it saw as “clear confirmation of the beneficial effects” of a restructuring plan launched more than a year ago because of the pandemic.
This restructuring notably saw shops closed, terminated 7,000 jobs, and focused on online sales to stem the decline in customer traffic and adapt to new consumption patterns.
While France may be left with fewer stores than before, Belgium has been without for one considerable time.
In 2016 Belgium’s one and only M&S closed shop after reopening in May 2015. The store, which was situated in Avenue de la Toison d’Or in Brussels, was closed after “comprehensive analysis of the 466 international M&S shops, with the aim of unveiling a clearer vision of their current activities and profitable aspects.”
This wasn’t the first time M&S pulled out of Belgium, having left in 2011 following to focus on British sales.