High street favourite Marks and Spencer – famous as the place where Brits shop for their smalls – has got its knickers in a twist over a planned new Primark store at the Gyle shopping centre.
The new multi-million-pound Primark would provide a huge boost for the Gyle and other stores at the centre are desperate to see them open because of the thousands of extra shoppers they would pull in.
But M&S, who have a right to be consulted on new openings as one of the centre’s two anchor stores, are understood to in talks with the Gyle owners over their concerns about Primark’s opening. They are believed to be examining their lease to see what options they have to block the new store.
It has been estimated that Primark coming to the Gyle would attract an extra £4.5 million a year in spending to the Capital that currently goes elsewhere, particularly to Livingston.
The managers of 20 stores at the Gyle, including Boots, Monsoon, Clarks, Gap, Disney, and Thomas Cook, have sent a letter to the Gyle management expressing their “frustration at the protracted delays” in the arrival of the budget chain.
One store manager said: “It seems to be an over-reaction by M&S. I mean really what have they got to fear. Everyone else is desperate to see Primark come in because it will boost trade for us all.“
Fellow anchor tenant Morrisons is believed to have no concerns.
When the budget fashion phenomenon was given the green light in November 2011 to build the new outlet, M&S appeared unruffled. Retail experts believe M&S is now taking a different view due to their dwindling profits and Primark’s relentless rise.
Last year, Primark owner Associated British Foods reported pre-tax profits of £761m, Citing “exceptional” performance from its discount chain. M&S posted pre-tax profits of £290m, down 9.7 per cent on the same period last year, with clothing sales down 4.3 per cent.
Retail expert Mike Pretious, of Queen Margaret University, said: “A lot has changed in two years, clothing and ladieswear are clearly areas where Marks and Spencer are struggling while Primark is booming and they now see Primark as very much a direct competitor. Blocking Primark’s opening would be a pretty poor commercial statement and it doesn’t show confidence in their ability to trade their way out of their current problems.”
Gyle owners Ewart Properties said: “We were obviously delighted to get such strong support for our planning application, and we are keen to secure as much investment as possible to improve the Gyle shopping centre experience and to keep retail spend in Edinburgh.
Ewart Properties has worked hard to secure this major new development and want to see it built.”
The move comes on the back of councillors being accused of “blowing 200 jobs” by refusing Debenhams’ request to open at Fort Kinnaird.
An M&S spokeswoman said: “We welcome the expansion of retail space at the Gyle shopping centre and, as one of its anchor stores, the landlord has consulted us on the plans for the new development.
“We hope to complete this process very soon.”
Primark did not wish to comment.
MURRAY SLAMS NEW SAINSBURY’S STORE
EDINBURGH South MP Ian Murray has hit out at the opening of another Sainsbury’s supermarket in the city.
The former Meadows Hotel is to reopen as a Sainsbury’s Local after “change of use” planning consent was submitted to convert the derelict spot.
The politician, however, has slammed the step – saying the march of such supermarket stores does nothing but throttle local independents.
Mr Murray said: “There is a problem in regards a proliferation of these supermarkets as people feel they will be a real threat to independent businesses.”
The Federation of Small Businesses has also previously expressed concerns about the “knock-on” effect of new superstores on local traders.
Spokesman Gordon Henderson said: “We have made many previous comments about the future of our high streets and the protection of small independent retailers.
“Sainsbury’s will always be able to offer cheaper prices and this will be the main factor when people decide where to shop.”
The Causewayside store is expected to open by April.
Andy Davies, of Sainsbury’s, said: “We remain committed to opening new stores in the very best locations throughout Edinburgh.”
A HOST of Gyle retailers have added their names to an irate letter calling for the Primark to be built. Beaverbrooks, Next, Monsoon, Clarks, Boots, New Look, Gap, Disney, Ernest Jones, The Body Shop, WH Smith, River Island, EE, Thorntons, Thomson Holidays, Thomas Cook, Specsavers, Costa Coffee, Burger King and Phones4U are all behind the move. The note urges bosses to act “immediately” and says “any obstacles” should be told the collective is fuming “at the delay”.
ON THE MARK
YOU know you’ve made it when you have an “effect” – and Primark is one such retailer.
It has made its name in recent years selling fashionable clothing at knockdown prices.
Such is the buzz that a new store‘s opening creates, footfall in the immediate surrounding area has been known to increase by up to 22 per cent.
There’s a downside to the so-called “Primark effect”, however, as the amount of unwanted clothing being dumped in landfill sites has soared 30 per cent across Britain.