// M&S boss Stuart Machin claims the redevelopment of its Marble Arch store is the right solution
// The retailer’s plans to demolish rather than retrofit sparked a public inquiry late last year
M&S CEO Stuart Machin has claimed that its Marble Arch store is “riddled with asbestos” and insists its controversial plans to redevelop the site are “the right – and only – workable solution” to save it.
Machin said: “The sad reality is Marble Arch underperforms renewed stores like Hedge End in Southampton and Bluewater in Kent; it belongs to a bygone era.”
He said that its plans, which were the subject of a public inquiry late last year, will create a “first-class, digitally-connected shopping experience in a brand-new, vibrant store with contemporary high ceilings and adaptable retail space”.
Machin claimed this was in stark contrast to the “confusing warren” and “misaligned floors” of its current Marble Arch store.
The retail boss also said that the “poorly designed, outdated, and highly inefficient collection of buildings” are not fit for purpose for customers or staff.
M&S’ plans to redevelop rather than retrofit its Marble Arch store has stoked ire with heritage campaigners.
However, Machin said that Historic England had deemed the site of “low heritage value” and said that it was “unworkable” to retrofit the site.
He also claimed the revamped building would be among the top 1% of sustainability performance in London.
“The current site delivers such poor sustainability performance it requires significant and unsustainable investment to keep running,” said Machin.
“If we leave M&S Marble Arch to continue trading as it is, the building’s energy efficiency – which is unfortunately already very poor – will only continue to deteriorate.”
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Modernising M&S store estate
M&S is pushing ahead with revamping its store estate, investing £480m in “bigger and better stores”.
Machin pointed out that 40% of its store pre-date World World Two and many need to be modernised.
“Part of the reason Marks and Spencer stagnated for so many years was due to a reticence to take action to close underperforming stores. I want to build a M&S that is sustainable in every way and that requires change,” he said.
M&S’ “store rotation programme” will see it move to 180 high quality, high productivity full-line stores, and open more than 100 new food halls by April 2026. As part of the plans it will close 67 “lower productivity” stores.
However, earlier this week M&S revealed that it would open an additional 20 stores this financial year, in cities including Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham.
Machin highlighted the success M&S’ revamped ‘renewal’ stores, which are trading 14% ahead of forecasts on average.
The retail boss reiterated his view that its Marble Arch store needed such a revamp to help boost Oxford Street.
“The effects of Covid have brought a street that was once the jewel of UK shopping to its knees
“Footfall remains 30% down on already dwindling pre-pandemic levels, with recovery in Oxford Street trailing its near cousins in Bond Street and Regent Street, both of which have benefitted from significant redevelopment and investment.”
“The future of Oxford Street as a global shopping destination hangs on sustainable retail and mixed-use regeneration and M&S is the only retail-led regeneration on the entire length of the street, which will create 2,000 jobs.”
Machin questioned the future of the site if M&S plans are not go ahead.
“If M&S cannot make retrofit work at Marble Arch – and we know we cannot – then who can? I do not want our Marble Arch site – or Oxford Street – to be left in limbo and decline further.”
“I want our site to be a flagbearer for modern, sustainable redevelopment and breathe life back into a much loved – and needed – part of our Capital city.”