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Gravesham Council Leader has 'no sympathy' for M&S over planned closure
Gravesham Council leader John Burden has revealed his sadness over M&S’s planned retreat from Gravesend.
The retailer revealed earlier last month (June 2) how it was considering to shut up shop in New Road.
Gravesham Council reacted angrily to the news on the day, saying it was "amazed" by the news and now Coun John Burden has revealed more details on the planned closure.
He told News Shopper: "They say the final decision has not been taken but in reality it is a done deal.
"We have a meeting with the head of public relations who said they have started a consultation with the 66 members of staff which is due to finish around July.
"The fault is with the firm overall because they’ve failed to identify the market. They don’t know whether they’re targeting the young or the old.
"The food offering in the Gravesend store is limited and the clothing is mostly end-of-line stuff which has already passed through the Bluewater store."
Coun Burden has discovered the reasons behind the store’s proposed retreat from the town.
He said: "They told us the decision had been taken for three main reasons: the store hadn’t made money for some time, secondly there is asbestos in the building which - although it does not affect staff or customers - will be costly if they want to refurbish.
"There will also be changes to EU regulations on their refrigeration procedure which would make refurbishment vital.
"I don’t have sympathy for them because they’ve known about this for some years and haven’t chosen to do anything about it.
Coun Burden is concerned about preserving the future of the historic building.
He said: "The worst thing would be if it lay vacant for years.
"I want to work with M&S to ensure it is sold on and used as a retail space. There is a possibility the upper floors could be converted into flats."
The firm has had a presence Gravesend more than a century and many shoppers spoke of their dismay over the proposed closure.
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