Middlesbrough Marks and Spencer store closure leaves shoppers 'devastated' for the town's future

  • Video report by Julia Barthram

Shoppers in Middlesbrough have reacted to the decision to close the town's Marks and Spencer store.

Staff were told on Tuesday 17 January that the store would close in April after 122 years of trading. The nearest Marks and Spencers will be in Teesside Park and Skippers Lane in Cleveland Retail Park.

A spokesperson for the firm said that the decision is taking changing shopping habits into consideration.

Craig Baldock, regional manager, said: “Shopping habits are changing, and this means we need to focus our investment on the right stores in the right places so we can provide the very best shopping experience for our customers.

“As part of this transformation, we have today announced to colleagues our proposals to close our Middlesbrough store on Linthorpe Road.

He added: “This has been a tough decision but means we can invest in many of our 21 other stores in the Northeast including M&S Teesside, so we keep pace with the demands of our customers today and in the future.

“Our priority now is to talk to our colleagues about what this announcement means for them and to support them through these changes.”

The store is not the first to close its doors in Middlesbrough town centre in recent years.

The town's Topshop branch closed in 2020, Debenhams in May 2022 and House of Fraser in June 2022.

ITV News Tyne Tees talked to shoppers near Marks and Spencer in Middlesbrough to find out how they felt about the announcement of the store's imminent closure.

One woman said: "Unbelievable. Can't believe it is going. There will be nothing in the town now. Nothing. It is sad when you look along see House of Fraser and Debenhams. There is going to be nothing left."

Another woman, who looked visibly upset, said: "I'm absolutely devastated. Marks and Spencer has been here for as long as I can remember. It will now be four buses for me to go to a local Marks and Spencer.

"I've had a credit card with them for years which I will be stopping because I am just so devastated.

She added: "The people who work in Marksies, I've known for years. The staff - we are like friends. And it is just going."

"I think there's nothing here for me now. It's sad, very very sad," another shopper said. "Teesside Park? How do we get there? I can walk to the town from where I live."

Following the announcement, Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough, wrote to the chief executive of Marks and Spencer to discuss the closure of the Linthorpe Road store.

Mr McDonald today (18 January) sent this letter to Marks and Spencer's Chief Executive, asking for a meeting to discuss the store closure. Credit: Andy McDonald MP

Mr McDonald told ITV News Tyne Tees: "I am devastated. This is a hammer blow for Middlesbrough and its town centre. And it really does undermine the retail offer of the town centre. It has come out of the blue.

"I am trying to talk to M&S to see if there is any possible way that we can hang onto this precious and much loved store. If it it goes the way of Debenhams and House of Fraser, I am afraid the whole purpose of the town centre is now being fundamentally challenged and that is a real worry.

"M&S are opening stores in more prosperous areas so it really does speak volumes about the economic backdrop of the cost of living crisis.

He added: "I am really at this eleventh hour hoping that there can be something that could be done. Let's look at the future high streets fund, at the town's fund.

"Is there anything that we can do to say 'look, there is a justifiable business case' but at the moment not enough people are going through the door and spending enough money to justify them staying there."

On his Facebook page, Tees Issues, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "It’s incredibly sad and disappointing that a landmark shop like M&S has finally decided to close its doors in central Middlesbrough.

He added: "The Middlesbrough area does have another very big and active M&S just 3.5 miles away at Teesside Park.

"And although I can see why the owners think that focusing on that store makes more sense - they’re wrong and I am discussing this with them tomorrow."

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: "This is a big blow to Middlesbrough and my heart goes out to staff.

"I'll be speaking to M&S to ensure workers get redeployed across the region's other 21 stores.

"This is awful news but this underscores why we are setting up a Mayoral Development Corporation in Middlesbrough town centre."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...