Shoppers react to council’s desperate M&S foodhall plea

Tony Kingsbury Howard Centre Marks and Spencer

Shoppers believe the council's pleas to M&S will do little to make them stay. - Credit: Archant/PA

Shoppers believe that Marks and Spencer will still close their Howard Centre store despite pleas from the council for the retailer to keep their foodhall.

M&S will be closing their Welwyn Garden City store in April, but Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council is making a desperate bid to get them to stay, asking them to consider retaining their foodhall.

“The council is actively lobbying Marks & Spencer to retain a presence in the Howard Centre,” said a spokesman.

“Councillor Tony Kingsbury has written to Marks & Spencer’s senior management to express his disappointment in their decision to close the store and ask them to consider retaining their foodhall in the Centre.”

Shoppers are far from optimistic that the council’s efforts will pay off, with Welwyn Hatfield Times readers reacting to the news on Facebook.

“So the local councillor has written to M&S to ask them to keep paying £15k-a-month in rent when they only make £5k profit! No brainer,” said Curtis Cumberbatch.

READ MORE: Shoppers predict ‘demise’ of Welwyn Garden City town centre after store closures announced

“The rents are too high in The Howard Centre, if they lowered the rent the shops would stay there,” added Jean Granahan.

Kay Young also cited the rates at The Howard Centre as to the reason M&S are closing their store.

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“The rates are too high. The clothing range needs to be updated. The young don't seem to buy the clothes there and for some mature people the clothes are for those in their 30s and 40s,” she said.

Jon Goss believes Welwyn Garden City is at risk of becoming a ‘ghost town’ if rates are not lowered, saying: “The borough council are out of step.

“Why promote more retail units when there are so many empty ones already?

“They should be working with retailers, landlords including The Howard Centre to come up with ways of encouraging local businesses to open.

“Lower rates for existing businesses instead otherwise Welwyn Garden City will be a ghost town and then John Lewis will think no point in staying.”

Lorraine Ward echoed this statement, saying: “Shame they couldn't do the same for the other shops there that have closed.”