Post-Brexit border bottlenecks force British retailer Marks & Spencer to close 11 franchise stores in France

FRANCE – British multinational retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) will be closing its 11 franchise stores with partner SFH in France over the coming months due to cross-border bottlenecks affecting the supply of fresh and chilled products from the UK into Europe. 

An M&S spokesperson revealed to journalists that the lengthy and complex export processes now in place following the UK’s exit from the EU have been significantly constraining the supply of fresh and chilled product from the UK into Europe. 

This, according to the spokesperson, has had an impact product availability for customers and the performance of the retailer’s business in France, forcing it to shut down operations. 

 The stores which are located predominantly across the high streets of Paris are expected to close by the end of this year, the spokesperson revealed.  

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“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,” says Paul Friston, managing director international at M&S. 

“The supply chain complexities in place following the UK’s exit from the EU, 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 stresses. 

M&S’ nine franchise stores with another partner Lagardere Travel Retail will, however, continue to trade and both parties continue to work closely on a sustainable future business model. 

M&S and Lagardere Travel Retail are holding talks on a sustainable future business model for the nine stores run by Lagardere. 

For now, the British retailer assures that the stores will continue to do business as normal in travel hubs such as airports, railway, and metro stations. 

The shuttering of 11 stores in France by the high-end grocery is the latest change following the reconfiguration of its food business in Czech Republic. 

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 The company discontinued the sale of all fresh and chilled products from stores in the country and instead doubled its ranges of frozen and ambient products. 

“This removed the ongoing supply chain risks to our business, and the knock-on impact on limiting availability for customers in our stores,” the spokesperson remarks. 

“Since the changes took place in April, business performance continues to be ahead of expectations and availability of products has remained consistent.” 

Even considering these blanket issues, British food has seen small wins following Brexit, particularly in the alcoholic beverage sector.  

Last July, UK ministers pledged to cut red tape for British wine importers, saving local consumers up to £130 million (US$178.8 million) a year, according to government-published estimates.  

In the same month, the UK government also exempted food industry supply chain workers from self-isolation rules that have contributed greatly to the labor shortage issue, in the wake of growing concerns about empty supermarket shelves. 

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