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UK’s M&S to close 11 stores in France after Brexit By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past a Marks & Spencer store on Oxford Street, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain, July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) -British retailer Marks & Spencer (OTC:) said it would close all 11 franchise food stores it runs with partner SFH in France over the coming months after new trade rules in place since Britain left the European Union hammered product availability.

The group said on Thursday that its remaining nine franchise stores, run with Lagardere Travel Retail, will continue to trade and the pair were working on a sustainable future business model.

M&S Chairman Archie Norman has been complaining for months that the retailer has struggled to get goods into EU members Ireland and France since Britain left the EU’s single market at the beginning of the year, due to the huge amount of additional paperwork that was required.

“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,” said Paul Friston, M&S’ international director.

“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, resulting in an ongoing impact to the performance of our business.”

The 11 stores that will close by the end of this year are located predominantly across the high streets of Paris.

The nine stores run by Lagardere are located in travel hubs such as airports, railway and metro stations.

In April, M&S reconfigured its food business in the Czech Republic to remove supply chain risks. It took out all fresh and chilled products from stores, and doubled ranges of frozen and ambient products.

Last month, M&S upgraded its profit outlook after a jump in demand for food in its home market and a surge in online clothes sales indicated that its latest turnaround plan was starting to deliver.

Shares in M&S were down 1.3% at 0951 GMT, paring 2021 gains to 34.8%.

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