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Marks & Spencer shuts France stores on Brexit fallout

·2-min read
M&S said it planned to close the mainly Paris stores by the end of the year (AFP/Justin TALLIS)

British retailer Marks & Spencer said Thursday it will shut more than half its stores in France with Brexit affecting supplies of fresh and chilled food products.

Announcing the closure of 11 out of 20 franchise stores, the food-to-clothing retailer said in a statement that "the lengthy and complex export processes... following the UK's exit from the European Union are significantly constraining" supplies.

While it will shut all 11 franchise stores with partner SFH in France over the coming months, affecting around 100 jobs, the nine franchise stores with partner Lagardere Travel Retail will remain open across airports and train stations, Marks & Spencer added.

The British group's website in France, which sells mostly clothing and home products, will also keep running.

"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," Paul Friston, managing director of the British company's international arm, added in the statement.

"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."

Marks said it planned to close the mainly Paris stores by the end of the year.

Already following Britain's formal EU exit at the start of the year, M&S has reconfigured its food business in Czech Republic, removing the sale of all fresh and chilled products from stores.

"The red tape that comes with large-scale change like Brexit can cause damage, especially in businesses that were already facing headwinds, and that's what we've seen with these closures" in France, Sophie Lund-Yates, senior equity analyst Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, told AFP.

Marks & Spencer has experienced tough trading conditions in main market Britain over recent years, with its clothes offerings coming under strain from online competition.

The group -- known for its off-the-peg suits and sandwiches enjoyed by office workers -- axed about 7,000 jobs last year as the pandemic kept people at home.

- Border issues -

The update from M&S comes as British businesses across various sectors are struggling with deliveries as the pandemic and Brexit result in a shortage of lorry drivers.

Britain on Tuesday said it would push back its implementation of full post-Brexit borders checks on goods from the European Union, as Covid, red tape and new immigration rules fuel supply problems.

Plans to introduce full controls in areas such as the import of food and animal products had been due from next month but would now start from January, the government said.

bur-bcp/lth

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