Kirkcaldy’s economy has been dealt another blow with the announcement that M&S is to close its High Street store.
The shop, an anchor of the town centre for 80 years, is expected to close early next year in a move that will affect 74 members of staff.
It comes as part of the ailing chain’s plans to bring the shutters down on more than 100 branches by 2022 and follows on the heels of the closure of the town centre’s BHS, Next and Tesco stores.
Bill Harvey, the manager of Kirkcaldy4All, said M&S shoppers would feel let down by the move.
“I feel very sorry for their loyal customers who have stood by them through difficult times,” he said.
“It appears loyalty only flows one way.”
Shona Lawrie, M&S head of region for Scotland, said the decision to close the flagship store had been “incredibly difficult”.
“We know we have many loyal customers who will be disappointed by the news,” she said.
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“Closing and relocating stores is never easy but it is vital for the future of M&S.”
She added that the “dedicated colleagues will all move to nearby stores.”
While no date for closure has been given, it is expected in the early part of 2019, to dovetail with the opening of a new Glenrothes Foodhall.
Mr Harvey admitted it was a setback to plans to regenerate the town centre but pledged: “We are going to continue to mitigate against this and work hard to keep the town centre alive and thriving.
SNP MSP David Torrance said: “As one of the last remaining food retailers on the High Street, the loss of this store is yet another setback for Kirkcaldy, particularly for those people who are less able to access and use the store located at the retail park.
“Marks and Spencer’s has always been a main destination store and an important part of the High Street, which will now lose even more appeal and find it harder than ever to attract visitors and footfall.”
Fife Council co-leader, Labour councillor David Ross, and Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Labour MP Lesley Laird said they were seeking meetings with senior management, as M&S had given assurances over the High Street store’s future when it was planning to open a Foodhall at Kirkcaldy Retail Park.
Mrs Laird said they wanted to better understand the decision “to now renege on that original commitment made to the community”.
Mr Ross said the move was particularly distressing, after the council had approved the next phase of improvement work to the town centre and Esplanade.