RETAILER Marks and Spencer has called time on its almost 90-year presence in Barnsley town centre in an effort to ‘reshape’ its business.

The firm will close its Queen Street site and is readying a move to Peel Retail Park, on Harborough Hill Road, where it will open a Foodhall store.

It’s part of a strategy to move out of town centres amid changing shopping habits and increasing cost pressures, with Marks and Spencer confirming it will close 32 sites over the next three years.

A spokesperson told the Chronicle all staff at the current store will be offered new jobs at the larger premises or elsewhere, with the closure not being finalised until the new store is ready to open early next year.

Marks and Spencer - which first opened its doors in Barnsley in 1937 - has taken a swipe at ‘failed local authority or government policy’ for its town centre underperformance.

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But a long-term overhaul after the firm’s suffered years of decline is also motivated by plans for a more modern suite of stores with better access and parking, and a focus on the food side of the business - with its most recent annual results showing online sales are up 55.6 per cent and food sales 10.1 per cent.

Matt Graham, regional manager for Marks and Spencer, said: “We’re excited to be opening a brand-new Marks and Spencer Foodhall in the Peel Retail Park near Harborough Hill Road, which will offer local customers 60 per cent more Foodhall space than our current store.

“We expect that the new store will be ready to open in early 2023.

“Shopping habits are changing, so we’re reshaping our store estate to make sure we have the right stores to offer our customers an excellent shopping experience.

“This means in line with our Foodhall expansion, our existing store at 7 Queen Street will close once the development is complete.

“We appreciate this will be disappointing news for some, but we believe this is the right decision to ensure the best possible offer for customers in Barnsley.”

Marks and Spencer’s large premises has long been a stalwart of Barnsley town centre, and the company’s relationship with the town has gone beyond its customers - with historic local firms McLintock and Sons and SR Gent listing Marks and Spencer high among their most prized clientele.

It received a major refurbishment in 1980, when upscaling saw 40 new jobs created, and the following year further work saw its retail space increased to almost 20,000 square feet and its entrance double in size.

The news comes just as the local authority’s regeneration plans for the town centre come to fruition - with Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton wanting to allay fears the building will become an eyesore.

He said: “Marks and Spencer is a well-loved and popular brand with our residents and this new store will significantly increase the Marks and Spencer prominence across Barnsley.

“We’ll be working with the owners of the current Marks and Spencer unit over the coming months to prepare for the change and exploring various options for its use.”