Oxford Street ‘on its knees’ and becoming ‘dinosaur district’ says M&S boss

·2 min read
Oxford Street ‘on its knees’ and becoming ‘dinosaur district’ says M&S boss

London’s iconic Oxford Street is at risk of becoming a “dinosaur district” the head of Marks & Spencer has warned.

Despite once being the retail heartbeat of the city, Stuart Machin has claimed the busy London street is “on its knees” and becoming taken over by “tacky candy stores”.

“We need to back innovation, not breed a dinosaur district destined for extinction,” Mr Machin wrote in The Daily Telegraph.

“When I walk down Oxford Street today, I see a stark reality staring back at me. One in five shops sit vacant, there is a growing proliferation of tacky candy stores and near £600,000 of counterfeit goods have been seized from hawkers this year.

Marks & Spencer building on Oxford Street on 11th April 2022 in London (In Pictures via Getty Images)
Marks & Spencer building on Oxford Street on 11th April 2022 in London (In Pictures via Getty Images)

“The effects of Covid have brought a street that was once the jewel of UK shopping to its knees.

“Footfall remains 30 per cent 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 benefited from significant redevelopment and investment.”

His comments come after Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up halted plans to demolish the flagship Marble Arch store by issuing a Article 31.

Mr Gove intervened amid fears of the enviromental impact caused by the creation of a new 10-storey retail and office block in the shop’s place.

Campaigners had lobbied for Mr Gove to intervene due to the concerns over carbon emissions, but Mr Machin said the new store would exceed the Government’s carbon reduction targets and uses less energy than the current shop.

The US Candy stores mentioned by the M&S chief are being ivnestigated by Westminster council for allegedly failing to pay business rates in full.

Thirty US-themed sweet shops on London’s landmark high street - including the once iconinc HMV flagship site - are being investigated by the council.

Councillors criticised building owners for “turning a blind eye” as to who is subletting their properties as it has led to a “rash of US candy stores” popping up in London.

A haul of fake Wonka chocolate bars worth £22,000 are among counterfeit products totalling £100,000 seized from three stores on London’s Oxford Street earlier this month.

A spokesman for the Levelling Up Department said: “This is a disappointing response from M&S.

“Call-in decisions are made in line with established policy. It is right that a project of such significance should be considered by the independent planning inspectorate and ministers.”

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