Refurbish or Rebuild? What will be the impact of Gove's decision on M&S?
Wed 04 Oct 2023
We will have to wait and see whether the threat of losing another household brand on Oxford Street has the leveraging effect that M&S is hoping."
Anna Smith, Commercial Surveyor, Norwich.
Last month, Marks & Spencer launched a legal challenge to the decision made in July by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to refuse its plans to rebuild its flagship Oxford Street store. The outcome could set a precedent for future demolish and repair projects.
The retailer's plans were for a new multi storey store with an improved layout, focused on sustainability and a modern design. Its objective was to build ‘a renewed site set to provide a first-class, digitally connected shopping experience, putting the customer first and attracting life back to the nation’s high street.’
Mr Gove said he disagreed with M&S’s argument that there was no viable and deliverable alternative to demolition and that the project was not compatible with the transition to a low-carbon future and the need to reuse existing buildings and materials.
From a commercial agent’s perspective, it has been very interesting to watch the market’s reaction and it seems opinion is very much in favour of improving existing assets, especially if there is a heritage element to consider.
However, the counter argument questions why we are putting more constraints on the retail sector, especially the high street where flexibility is crucial to enable retailers to adapt to constant change in consumer demands and behaviour.
Stuart Machin, M&S chief executive, said Mr Gove's decision left the retailer with “no choice but to review its future position” on the UK’s premier high street “on the whim of one man”.
We will have to wait and see whether the threat of losing another household brand on Oxford Street has the leveraging effect that M&S is hoping.
The voids left by the likes of Debenhams are noticeable and I expect the managing agents are keen to keep an anchor tenant like M&S in situ.
That said, earlier this year it was announced that HMV will be returning to Oxford Street, armed with a new ‘retail experience’ and selling pop-culture merchandise as well as music. A great example of a retailer diversifying and modernising its offering to attract new customers. We hope M&S can do the same.
You can contact Anna Smith, Commercial Surveyor, based in our Norwich office on 01603 629871.
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