marks-and-spencer-logoThe closure of Balham’s Marks and Spencer has left a lot of local residents puzzled about why M&S have decided to axe what is seemingly a busy and successful store.

And I’m puzzled too.  

We all know that the country is effectively in recession.  We know that businesses will be feeling the pinch.  But, as a whole, Balham has shown itself to be very resilient.

For a start, it’s a great location.  There are around 21,000 residents within half a mile of the town centre and it has great transport links, with an underground station and an overground station scheduled for improvements.

It’s also benefited from significant investment.  The council’s Town Centre Improvement Scheme has leveraged nearly £600,000 of private sector investment in the Town Centre and in the past 4 years 60 businesses have upgraded their premises or moved into or within the town centre.  

What’s more Balham has been bucking the trend:  footfall counters show an increase of 6% between December 2007 and December 2008, at a time that a national fall of 8% is being reported!  And there is significant anecdotal evidence that food sales for consumption at home are increasing as people eat out less as a result of recession.  If your main business if food sales, Balham would seem the place to be.

It is bizarre that M&S are leaving an area that a retailer, and a food retailer to boot, would surely be desperate to be in.  The council will be putting all these points to M&S to try and dissuade them from following through on their closure.

4 thoughts on “Why are Marks and Spencer leaving Balham?

  1. I’m surprised you’re surprised! Balham already has so many food shops. Those concerned with price will go to Sainsburys across the road. For those concerned with quality and wanting anything other than ready meals they’ll head to Waitrose a few doors up for a much bigger selection, parking etc. Those worried about the origin of their food will go practically next door to the organic supermarket. The ONLY advantage M&S Balham has as far as I can see is that due to it’s square footage it is open later in the evening and on Sunday evenings. But even here it’s competing with local “corner” shops (no-one does a big shop at 9pm on Sunday, more likely a pint of milk for monday’s breakfast and a bar of galaxy…), and crucially with itself – the other M&S Simply Food shop a 10min or less walk up the road at Clapham South. Being right next to the tube I think the Clapham South shop must have the edge in terms of takings – though again it is competing with Tescos, a Sainsburys express (also open late), and corner shops.

    You say footfall in Balham is up, but in your next post about the 99p shop say rightly that people will be cutting down luxury spending in the recession. M&S is right at the top of the supermarket tree – no one is going to “cut down to M&S” (maybe a few who shop at Harrod’s food hall!). It must have been a no-brainer for M&S to close the Balham shop with another so close. There is already far less choice for lower income families in Balham when it comes to food & other shopping so I’m not particularly sorry to see M&S go. I’m also not sorry to see Woolworths replaced by a 99p shop!

  2. I think this is something we probably have to agree to disagree on.

    I do not think there was too much food provision in the area. M&S opened (one of their first Simply Food stores) confident there was enough of a market. Just a few years ago Waitrose moved into the area confident there was enough of a market; after all no-one is going to open a store if there is a chance there won’t be enough takings to stay open. (And I don’t think M&S is at the top of the “supermarket tree”, and would have put Waitrose higher, though that is a matter of opinion.)

    The change in Balham is down to the recession. Part of my job is to be ambitious for our town centres, so I am obviously disappointed when the seem to be moving in the wrong direction. None of our Town Centre Partnership have visions which include encouraging cheap or discount stores. Indeed, all the correspondence and discussions I have had with businesses and residents have expressed disappointment when they have moved in.

    I don’t see this as some anti-discount store issue either, I often use Poundland in the Southside shopping centre, for example. But we are going to have a real problem in what looks like being a lengthy recession if companies are collapsing or closing stores and the only things that are moving in are discount stores.

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