- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Marks & Spencer is drawing up plans to close some of its stores in France as Brexit red tape leaves it with empty shelves in Paris.
The high street stalwart is reviewing whether to shut a number of its 20 shops in the country, and may even stop selling chilled food in France altogether after hundreds of tons of food was wasted due to Brexit border controls, the Mail on Sunday reported.
The move comes months after M&S chairman Archie Norman argued that his company would not be able to get all of its Christmas food range into sites in Northern Ireland this year as a result of custom checks imposed between Britain and the province under the Northern Ireland protocol which made it impossible.
He said the custom checks were “pointless and byzantine” and destructive for business, arguing that the European Union’s custom arrangements were “totally unsuited and were never designed for a modern fresh food supply chain between closely intertwined trading partners”.
To get clearance at ports, M&S said at the time that it had to sift through 40,000 pages of paperwork a week for goods in Ireland. From October that number is set to treble to 120,000 a week.
One error in those documents could result in a truck of 650 items being refused. M&S said over the summer that there had been instances of trucks being turned away as agents rejected paperwork because of ink colour, or delayed as the dairy content of chocolate chip cookies was debated.
The retailer stopped trading in France in 2001 before returning a decade later by opening a giant, three-storey floor in the centre of Paris.
In the years that followed the company said that the performance of M&S food in France had been a highlight of a mixed international performance. In 2013 it said there had been strong demand from Parisians for traditional British delicatessens such as biscuits and jam, but also M&S’s ready meals and salads.
It warned earlier this year that it faced a “very complex administrative processes” to sell into the Czech Republic and France as a result of Brexit, going on to replace chilled products in its Czech stores with items that have a longer shelf life.
A spokesman told the Mail on Sunday: “We are taking decisive steps to reconfigure our European operations and have already made changes to food exports into Czech Republic.
“We operate a franchise business in France and are undertaking a review of the model with our two partners.”