Gloom for shoppers as M&S plans closure of Walworth branch

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Marks and Spencer is to close a store that has served residents of Walworth for more than 100 years.

The retailer announced it was considering shutting its branch last week due to changing shopping habits.

Customers visiting the store in Walworth Road this week expressed dismay at the news. Some said they thought ‘out-of-control shoplifting in the area’ was behind the decision, though that has not been flagged up by the store as a reason for leaving.

Anne Purcell, who was visiting the store with her daughter Catherine Durkin, said the loss of Marks and Spencer from the high street would be ‘terrible’ for Walworth. She said: “It’s so essential. It’s always so busy – especially at the weekends.

“I’ve been coming here for 25 years. I come in for fruit and groceries, mostly, and I buy some clothes as well.”

Her daughter, Catherine, added: “It’s such a shame. It’s handy for mum because it’s not too far for her to travel on her own and it’s less busy than in Central London.”

June O’Shea, 61, said she was worried about the gap the store’s absence would leave on the street. She said: “It’s devastating for the Walworth Road. Marks and Spencer draws people from all around here.

The store in Walworth Road (Picture: Robert Forth/LDRS)

“It’s going to bring the high street down not having it here. I think it has had a problem with shoplifting. I see it more and more around here.”

Dannica Joseph, 33, said it was a shame the store was closing, adding that she’d opt to do her shopping from Marks and Spencer online in the future. She said: “It’s terrible. I go there for kids’ clothes and pieces for school uniform. I’m going to have to try online in the future. I’ll be sad to see it go.”

Another shopper, who gave her name only as Liz, added: “It’s not the busiest M&S but it’s steady so I’m a bit surprised. I imagine the amount of shoplifting around here doesn’t make things any easier for them.”

In January 2024, there were 25 incidents of shoplifting reported in North Walworth, where the Marks and Spencer store is located, according to Met Police statistics. The figure is slightly higher than the 19 reported in January 2023 in the area, but almost triple the nine cases reported two years ago in January 2022.

Gordon Scott, regional manager at Marks and Spencer, said: “Shopping habits are changing, so we’re rotating our store estate to make sure we have the right stores with the right space. As part of this transformation, last week we announced to colleagues our proposal to close the M&S Walworth Road store.

“Our priority right now is talking to colleagues about what the announcement means for them. Should the proposals go ahead, wherever possible we will offer them alternative roles with M&S.”

Pictured top: Anne Purcell and her daughter Catherine Durkin outside Marks and Spencer on Walworth Road. (Picture: Robert Firth)

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