M&S blames Brexit and closes 11 French stores days after boss blasted EU red tape on LBC

16 September 2021, 10:41 | Updated: 17 September 2021, 17:55

M&S chief Archie Norman hinted at the closure of stores in an exclusive interview with LBC on Monday.
M&S chief Archie Norman hinted at the closure of stores in an exclusive interview with LBC on Monday. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Joe Cook

Retail giant Marks & Spencer has announced it will close 11 of its stores in France, saying Brexit has made it "near impossible" to supply fresh food to customers.

The 11 stores are operated with as part of a franchise with SFH and will close in the "coming months", M&S said.

The announcement comes just three days after M&S chief Archie Norman hinted at the move in an exclusive interview with LBC.

He told LBC that lorries going to Dublin or France have to carry approximately 720 pages of documentation which takes up to 24 hours to prepare, describing it as a "fandango of bureaucracy".

"Quite simply that means that our fresh sandwiches or ready meals going to Ireland or France are delayed by about a day, and that's not good if you're a sandwich," he added.

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In a statement confirming the shutting of the stores, M&S Managing Director of International Paul Friston said: "M&S has a long history of serving customers in France and this is not a decision we or our partner SFH have taken lightly.

"However, as things stand today, the supply chain complexities in place following the UK's exit from the European Union now make it near impossible for us to serve fresh and chilled products to customers to the high standards they expect, resulting in an ongoing impact to the performance of our business.

"With no workable alternative for the High Street stores, we have agreed with SFH to close all 11 franchised stores."

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Signs had appeared on shelves in M&S stores blaming shortages on post-Brexit travel rules.
Signs had appeared on shelves in M&S stores blaming shortages on post-Brexit travel rules. Picture: Alamy

A further nine stores run by M&S will remain open at travel hubs, such as airports and train stations.

M&S also restructured its Czech business in April following Britain's EU withdrawal, removing all fresh and chilled products from the stores and doubling ranges of frozen and longer-life ambient products.

The group warned last week over further disruption expected when a grace period on trade and goods coming in to the UK from the continent begins to expire.