Marks & Spencer blames Brexit for store closures in France

Business

LONDON (AP) — British retailer Marks & Spencer said Thursday that it will close 11 of its stores in France, mainly in Paris, as a result of fresh and chilled food supply issues related to Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The group blamed Brexit disruption to exports to Europe for its decision to shut all franchised shops with partner SFH in France.

“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, managing director of M&S International.

“However, as things stand today, the supply chain complexities in place following the U.K.’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,” he added.

The stores are set to close by the end of the year.

M&S said it remains in discussions with partner Lagardere Travel Retail over its remaining nine French stores based at airports and railway stations, which it said continue to trade as normal.

Its website in France, which mainly sells clothing and home products, remains unaffected, the group added.

Previously, M&S restructured its Czech business in April following Brexit, removing all fresh and chilled products from the stores and doubling ranges of frozen and longer-life ambient products.

Britain formally left the EU in January 2020, but remained within its economic orbit until the start of this year, when a new, much looser free trade agreement took hold. Under the new trading arrangements, there are no tariffs or quotas on exports to the EU.

However, there are an array of regulatory requirements, particularly with regard to food standards, that make exporting certain products, such as British staples like sausages, pork pies and sandwiches more difficult, if not impossible.

Trade between Britain and the EU has been further complicated by coronavirus restrictions as well as a shortage of drivers that is partly due to the pandemic but also to Brexit, as many drivers opted to leave the U.K. when freedom of movement came to an end at the start of the year.

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