Marks & Spencer Group Plc (MKS), the U.K.’s largest clothing retailer, is closing stores in Ireland for the first time since it began serving the country 35 years ago as a challenging economy prompted a review of its outlets.
The retailer will have 17 stores in Ireland once the four unprofitable outlets are shuttered, Clare Wilkes, a spokeswoman for the London-based grocer and clothes seller, said by phone. A new 72,000-square-foot flagship outlet in Limerick is planned for 2016.
Marks & Spencer has kept the Irish division under review for several years as sales struggled during the worst recession in the country’s modern history. The retailer said in May that European revenue suffered from “ongoing weakness” in the Irish economy. Retail sales in the nation have fallen in four of the last five years.
“The retail sector outlook has not improved and we have to act now to protect the long-term good of the company,” Jonathan Glenister, head of M&S Ireland, said in an e-mailed statement.
The stores to be closed are in Dun Laoghaire and Tallaght, in County Dublin, as well as Naas in County Kildare and Mullingar in County Westmeath. About 180 jobs will be eliminated, while the Limerick opening will yield 250 new jobs.
“We hope that the news of a new flagship store for Limerick and an investment in our remaining estate will be welcomed by our customers and seen as a confirmation of our commitment,” Glenister said.
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