M&S blames Brexit as it axes 11 French high street stores

Marks and Spencer is to close 11 stores in France blaming "lengthy and complex export processes" affecting fresh and chilled products following Brexit.

The retailer said the outlets operated with franchise partner SFH, mainly located in Paris high streets, were expected to shut by the end of 2021.

It said nine other stores operated with another partner, Lagardere Travel Retail, at airports, railway and metro stations would continue to operate amid discussions between the companies on a "sustainable future business model".

M&S confirmed earlier this week that it was reviewing its French operations in the wake of problems created by new rules on exports of goods from the UK into European countries.

Chairman Archie Norman has complained of the "pointless and byzantine" way the rules are being enforced.

In a statement announcing the closures, the retailer said: "The lengthy and complex export processes now in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union are significantly constraining the supply of fresh and chilled product from the UK into Europe."

M&S said this is "continuing to impact product availability for customers and the performance of our business in France".

"As a result, we have reviewed how we trade with our EU businesses and partners, and today we have announced that our partnership with SFH will end resulting in the closure of all 11 of their franchised stores."

The retailer has already reconfigured part of its business elsewhere in Europe in the wake of Brexit, announcing in April that it was removing the sale of all fresh and chilled products in its Czech food stores.

Paul Friston, managing director of the group’s international division, said: "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.

"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.

"With no workable alternative for the high street stores, we have agreed with SFH to close all 11 franchised stores."

M&S said its website selling clothing and home products in France was not be affected by the announcement.

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