Shoppers dismayed as Bradford M&S ceases trading

Shoppers in Bradford have expressed their dismay ahead of the closure of the city's branch of Marks & Spencer.

The high street retailer announced plans earlier this year to shut its store in The Broadway shopping centre on 18 May.

One regular user said a trip to M&S was her main reason for visiting the city centre while others were worried about the extra time and cost involved in travelling to the nearest branch, four miles away, in Pudsey.

The company said "changing shopping habits" had prompted a "transformation" within the business.

Ian Scholes
Ian Scholes said he was "disappointed" by the closure of the M&S [BBC / Elizabeth Baines]

M&S has had premises at The Broadway since the £260m site opened in 2015, prior to that it was located in Darley Street.

Customers shopping at the store in its final days said the closure would make shopping for food and clothes "very difficult for many people".

Ian Scholes, 68, said: "We come to this store every week and shop for my wife's mother. She's got limited mobility, she walks with a walking aid, so we do all the shopping for her ready meals here.

"We're going to be using more petrol and more time going further afield."

Carol Inn, 63, said she would miss the cafe, describing it as a "safe space".

She said she did not know of any other cafes where older people could get the same feeling, saying: "You could go in there and sit on your own; it was just nice."

She added: "There's nothing left in Bradford. I remember a lot of the old shops, the change over the years is scary."

Some shoppers said the closure would put them off visiting the city centre.

Bonita Milnes, 77, told the BBC: "I think it will impact Bradford as a city, I won't be coming here as much.

"For me, this store was the main reason for me coming into the city."

Bradford Civic Society Chair, Simon Cunningham
Bradford Civic Society Chair Simon Cunningham said the loss of M&S was a "bitter blow" for the city. [BBC / Elizabeth Baines]

Meanwhile, there were worries the closure had come at an unfortunate time for the city ahead of its year as UK City of Culture in 2025.

Bradford Civic Society Chair, Simon Cunningham said the impending celebration "emphasized how important the next 12 to 18 months are to the city".

"Bradford has got a very big year coming up, there is a risk with M&S going that it undermines that positivity" he said.

"We need to make sure we make that link between culture and economic activity and that it gives people enough of a reason to come back into town.

"If we get culture and those attractions right, then retail can come back, but if we don't then the high street is finished forever."

Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council's executive member for regeneration, planning and transport said talks were held with M&S as soon as they became aware of the closure, but the decision had "already been made".

He said the council was continuing to work with M&S on ways to "support them in developing their ambitious investment plans for their National Distribution Centre in Bradford, which is a major employer in our district".

Despite the closure, Vickie Smith, M&S Regional Manager insisted Bradford remained hugely important to the business.

"In the last ten years, we’ve invested more than £120 million in our Bradford distribution centre, which employs over 1,800 people," she said.

"We have also invested £20 million in recent years in our stores across West Yorkshire."

Ian Ward, General Manager at The Broadway said: "M&S closing its store at The Broadway is a loss for both the city centre and the wider Bradford district.

"We are thinking of all those affected."

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