A DEPARTMENT store has moved to debunk rumours that it intends to close its stores in Fareham, Whiteley and Chichester.
Marks & Spencer’s store closure plan was the subject of speculation yesterday after a list was revealed – compiled by the Local Data Company – of stores it believed were most likely to be affected by the company’s announcement last week of 34 closures.
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said the list was comprised of towns that had two or more M&S stores, and those in areas already in serious decline or with ‘weakening town centres’.
On the ‘could be at risk’ list were the stores in Fareham Shopping Centre, Whiteley Shopping Centre and two in Chichester.
Whiteley is listed as ‘Whiteley Village, Fareham’ on the M&S website.
However, M&S has not yet named the stores set for closure and a spokesperson said that it would not be doing so soon, as they are part of a five-year business plan that includes plans to open 200 new food stores.
A spokesperson for M&S said: ‘We’re very disappointed that anyone would choose to speculate in this way.
‘This list is not based on any M&S data and we have not published any locations.
‘What we have done is outlined plans to improve our store estate over the next five years, which includes opening 200 new food stores and selling clothing and home from 60 fewer stores.’
He said that there would actually be ‘more M&S stores in five years than there are today’.
He added that staff and the public would be notified as and when plans were confirmed for any closures.
Managers from Whiteley Shopping Centre and Fareham Shopping Centre said the list was ‘pure speculation’.
Neil Carter, from Whiteley Shopping Centre, said: ‘This is pure speculation and until we have any official announcements from M&S we cannot comment.’
He added that the multimillion centre, which opened in May 2013 with M&S as its flagship store, was nearly 100 per cent occupied and expecting a busy Christmas season.
A spokesperson from Fareham Shopping Centre said: ‘Until M&S makes any formal announcement this is simply speculation. We don’t therefore have any comment at this time.’
Fareham Shopping Centre recently suffered the closure of BHS in August.
The large unit is still unoccupied as it passes through legal proceedings.
M&S has large stores in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth’s Commercial Road, and a newly-opened store in Havant. It has petrol station stores in Portchester and Emsworth.