Shoppers reveal shock after M&S revealed proposal to close store in Northampton town centre
People ofÂ Northampton have spoken of their shock and sadness having learned the town's large Marks & Spencer could be shut down.
The town centre has been shortlisted as one of 14 "proposed for closure", though there has been no firm decision to shut its doors yet.
Leader of the Labour opposition at Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said she was "absolutely shocked" at the news.
With Northampton's Drapery-based Debenhams store also considered to be at risk as part of an ongoing review of its portfolio and the Abington BHS now closed - the town is at risk of losing three high street department stores in three years.
Councillor Stone said: "I think looking for an anchor store to replace this has to be a thing of the past now.
"We need to look elsewhere for out retail.
"We need to be encouraging small businesses to set up here.
"We need to capitalise on the assets we have got, such as our fashion and boutique shops.
"We need to be encouraging our creative students to stay and invest in the town."
Last year, the Chronicle & Echo spoke to the council's shadow member for regeneration, Councillor Arthur McCutcheon, who warned the town's M&S was at real risk of closure as a result of a huge new unit opening at Rushden Lakes.
However, a statement from the company has suggested the M&S is looking to divert resources to the 42,000 sq ft outlet in the north of the county.
Retired builder, Steve Boddington, 68, of Duston said he and his wife both shop at M&S and Debenhams when they're in town.
He said: "We like to see the old names, it's familiarity. There's certain things we can get here that you can trust, things like trousers. Shirts are good value, good quality and you can trust it.
"I just wonder what they will do with a big unit like this one. It would be a big shame to see it go. Online shopping has been the death now for many high street stores. I like to see what I get for my money.
"I always hear people say 'it's not worth coming up here' and that spreads, and people believe it."
Old colleagues, Corrina Hobbs and Pam Ridley meet up at M&S once cafe every three months for a slice of cake and a cup of coffee at M&S in Abington Street.
Pam said: "I'm going to miss it. I come down here to do clothes shopping so I will really miss it. Corrina added: "I'm going to miss it terribly."
Barbara Dunkley, 76, and her husband Brian, 79, of Duston also spoke to the Chronicle & Echo. Barbara said: "They seem to cater more for the youngsters and the very old, and I'm in between.
"If we are in [town] we always go into Marks & Spencer. We have nothing in the town, nothing at all. There's nothing to bring you down. There's either cafes or phone shops, there's nothing of interest to bring you into town for.
"You need furniture shops. There's nowhere where you can buy material. There used to be a drapery up here and we have none of this."
Terry and Eileen Murray of Rushden pop into Northampton M&S to look at the clothing range. She said: "We used to be very frequent but when I retired I found it too expensive.
"BHS I used to love. It will be terrible."
The pair benefit from living within walking distance to Rushden Lakes. "I can walk there, you can have a nice meal there. We had our 50th wedding anniversary do there the other day."
Councillor Tim Hadland, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and planning, said: "Of course we are very disappointed to learn of this proposal and we will keep our lines of dialogue open with Marks & Spencer.
"The pressure on town centres across the country is well understood. Shopping habits have changed considerably and we are working with our stakeholders to respond to these changes.
"We are in the process of delivering a number of practical solutions which will help to resolve some of the issues in the town centre and assist us in identifying the future use and focus for vacant retail units.
"This process will also help the Council to take into account the changing retail landscape, allowing us to shift the focus toward elements which will help inject more vitality into the heart of Northampton."