Coming after speculation about closures following months of empty shelves at stores in Paris, the business announced on Thursday that it will close 11 of its 20 Food Hall stores in France.
Nine stores situated in travel hubs such as mainline rail stations and airports will remain open, the spokesman added.
“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,” Paul Friston, M&S managing director of international, told the BBC.
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“However, as things stand today, the supply chain complexities in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union 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.”
Customers at M&S stores in Paris, Parisian suburbs and Lille have reported empty shelves ever since the end of the Brexit transition period in January.
Since February the situation appeared to have improved slightly, but many of the fresh products such as milk and sandwiches had been replaced with French produce.
One of the store’s selling points was that its products were identical to those on the shelves in the UK, providing a taste of home for Brits living in France but also necessitating a complicated supply chain of fresh produce including meat, cheese and sandwiches imported from the UK.
Since the end of the Brexit transition period, imports of fresh food into the EU from the UK are subject to strict controls at the border.
Since 2017, Marks & Spencer has operated only Food Hall stores in France – one in Lille and the rest in Paris and its suburbs – and its ready meals and sandwiches had proved a surprising hit with French customers, as well as Brits looking for a little taste of home.
No date was given for the closure of the French stores, but it will be “in the coming months”.