The announcement that Bolton town centre’s branch of Marks & Spencer is set to close has caused ‘devastation’ for workers and customers alike.
Staff were told as they reported for work on Tuesday morning that the Deansgate store is set to permanently close its doors, a decision that has since been confirmed by the company.
In response, shop workers union Usdaw has urged the company to do whatever is possible to save jobs.
Regional secretary Mike Aylward said: “Staff in all Marks & Spencer stores were extremely concerned about what the future holds when the company announced a wide-ranging store reorganisation, without saying where the axe will fall.
“Today we see another proposed closure, which is devastating news for the staff in the Bolton store on Deansgate.”
Other closures have been proposed across the country, which Marks & Spencer says has come about due to ‘changing shopping habits.’
But Mr Aylward says moves like this show the need for his union to represent workers at shopfloor level.
He said: "Usdaw has thousands of members working for Marks & Spencer and the staff now need, more than ever, the representation and support of an independent trade union.”
He added: “Given the opportunity Usdaw would ensure that all avenues to save jobs are explored and staff are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.
"We are providing our members with the support and representation they require throughout this difficult time."
Many of the borough’s politicians have also reacted with dismay at the news.
Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi said: “The closure of M&S is another hit for our local high street.
“At a time when we need more investment it is concerning to see businesses closing down.”
She added: “It is a difficult environment for high streets but they can only thrive in a strong economy, something the government is failing to deliver.”
But Bolton West MP Chris Green said that there was yet hope for Bolton’s high street.
He said: “Shopping patterns have been shifting over many years which is why Middlebrook in the heart of my constituency does so well but of course we all want to see our town centre do well.
“Martyn Cox and his team have huge plans for the regeneration of the town and we’re all hoping that once the regeneration of the retail sector takes place then we will see the return of major outlets to Bolton.”
Bolton Council has said that it still hopes to convince Marks & Spencer to keep the branch open.
A spokesperson said: “We are extremely disappointed by the news that Marks & Spencer plans to close their Bolton town centre store.
“M&S is a hugely popular flagship destination for Bolton shoppers, and we will be contacting the business to make the case that it should remain open.
“We regularly update our plans for the future of the wider town centre and will now be considering our options given this latest development.
“The council continues its work to attract more private investment into the town centre, including at our the upcoming Invest in Bolton event on March 2.”
But the company has said that it closing the Deansgate branch will allow it to invest further in other stores in the region.
M&S regional manager Ben Heaps said: “Our priority now is to talk to our colleagues about what this announcement means for them and wherever possible, offer them alternative roles with M&S.”
He added: “We will be working hard to keep serving customers in our nearby local stores, including our M&S Middlebrook and M&S Bury The Rock stores which both offer a wide range of M&S Food and Clothing & Home products, and our nearby M&S Foodhalls in Walkden and Prestwich where customers can also Click & Collect purchases from M&S.com.”