Norwich food stores are part of Marks and Spencer’s growth strategy
08:00 06 September 2014
The Norwich area is at the forefront of a national brand’s plans to invest heavily into its food store market, it has emerged.
Marks and Spencer was last week granted permission for a new M&S Simply Food store on Longwater Retail Park in Costessey.
Due to open in spring 2015, the new store will create 50 new jobs.
The announcement came after M&S announced last month that it was planning to move out of its town centre store in King Street, Great Yarmouth, and open a Simply Food store on the out-of-town Gapton Hall retail park – and just a month after it opened its new Sweet Briar Retail Park.
Bosses said the new stores were part of a nationwide investment in the company’s food sector.
According to M&S’s annual report, people are shopping more locally and more regularly, and 41pc of the firm’s food customers shop “for tonight”.
The report says the company has introduced more products to more stores, and about 110 stores now stock the company’s full range, meaning M&S customers “don’t have to sacrifice choice for convenience”.
It also says the company is seeing more customers shop with them more often and M&S has grown “significantly faster” than the overall food market.
Bosses said Norwich’s two Simply Food stores will be among the first 25 of 150 stores planned to open within the next three years.
Steve Smy, head of region for East Anglia at M&S, said: “Over the last several years, we have invested heavily in Norwich through the modernisation of the city centre store.
“Our new Simply Food stores in Sweet Briar Retail Park and Longwater Retail Park will further complement our offer for Norwich residents.”
According to company figures, M&S’s food division has seen 18 quarters of positive like-for-like sales growth and its customer satisfaction ratings are at an “all-time high”.
The planned Longwater store is set to create 50 new jobs while there are 100 employees at the Sweet Briar Retail Park.
Based at the former Allied Carpets store, the Sweet Briar Retail Park branch was the first of its kind for Norfolk. The 16,150sq ft store has an in-store bakery and a 50-seat café, and a 200-space free car park for customers has also been created – something which bosses say is a motivator for choosing out-of-town retail parks for its food stores.
Mr Smy said: “Our consultation process demonstrated that there was a strong demand from local residents for a second M&S Simply Food. The two retail parks largely attract separate customers, so we will be able to serve a wider area.
“We already have a full-offer store in the city centre, which includes food.
“Ultimately, we want to ensure we are in the best location to serve our customers, and we believe we have now found that with Longwater Retail Park, which also offers free parking.”
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