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Aberdeen’s flagship M&S to close as Union Square shop doubles in size

The St Nicholas Street mainstay will be shut amid major spending plans on the store nearby.

Aberdeen city centre M&S, which has announced closure.
Bosses have confirmed the city centre M&S will close. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Marks & Spencer has announced the closure of Aberdeen’s flagship city centre shop amid £15 million plans to expand the Union Square branch.

The much-loved department store has been a popular mainstay since opening on St Nicholas Street in 1944.

Just off Union Street, it is one of the biggest draws to the struggling central shopping district and has been a traditional favourite for generations of Aberdonians.

But in recent years there has been mounting speculation over its future.

M&S launched a string of closures in 2021, resulting in 68 across the UK and sending alarm bells ringing in Aberdeen.

The food hall as seen from McCombie's Court
The food hall as seen from McCombie’s Court. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

For the past three years, politicians and shoppers alike have been seeking assurances on the fate of the store.

And their long-held fears that an expansion of the Union Square branch could put paid to its predecessor have finally proven correct.

But M&S has pledged that there will be no losses of permanent jobs as it instead ploughs millions into making the newer store “one of the best in the country”.

Chain finally confirms St Nicholas closure plans

Management has confirmed that the St Nicholas Square shop will close in 2025.

Work on extending the Union Square outlet is expected to conclude that spring.

It will reopen when the older branch shuts.

A photo of M&S in Aberdeen city centre in 1973
How the shop looked in 1973. Image: DC Thomson

M&S says that the £15m investment at Union Square is the biggest city centre cash injection from a private body for years.

The extension will take over the entire space currently occupied by TK Maxx.

The huge M&S at Union Square is envisioned to look something like this new Birmingham branch:

How will Union Square branch change?

The upgrades will make it the fourth biggest M&S in Scotland.

Almost doubling its footprint will create space for a “market style food hall”, flower shop, bigger bakery, clothing and beauty departments and a wine shop.

The fruit and veg section
The fruit and veg section would be expanded to look something like this. Image: Marks & Spencer
The beauty section
The beauty section might look like this in the future. Image: Marks & Spencer

‘A vote of confidence in Aberdeen city centre’

Rachel Rankine, north-east regional manager for M&S, said the changes would create a “destination shopping experience”.

She said: “The scale of our investment is a vote of confidence in the future of retail in Aberdeen city centre.

“This will be a flagship store on the same scale as city centre stores in Birmingham and Liverpool.

“Where we have already invested in new formats, our customers have responded to the destination shopping experience.”

An impression of the new expansion planned for Aberdeen's Union Square M&S branch after the Union Street closure
Here is how the new frontage would look. Image: Marks and Spencer

And Sacha Berendji, M&S operations director said it came as part of a £30m package of projects including other Scottish stores at Largs, Dundee and Linlithgow.

He hailed it as the 140-year-old retail giant’s “biggest ever investment in Scotland”.

Mr Berendji added: “Our commitment to Scotland has never been stronger.”

What about TK Maxx?

As for the TK Maxx, the firm last year lodged building papers with Aberdeen City Council indicating plans to “amalgamate” a unit just across the car park from its current spot in Union Square.

TK Maxx and M&S in Union Square
The Union Square M&S will be expanding into the TK Maxx store next door. Image: Google Maps

Parent company TJX Europe owns both the clothes store and Home Sense, and wants to spend £430,000 enlarging the latter store.

The company has been contacted for more information on the proposals.

M&S Aberdeen closure comes despite pleas to stay

Business leaders have previously warned of the dire impact the closure could have.

In a letter to M&S chief executive Stuart Machin last year, Our Union Street chairman Bob Keiller underlined the store’s “enormous importance”.

North-east MSP Liam Kerr said closing it would be “unthinkable”, describing the shop as “the heartbeat of our city centre”.

Marks and Spencer dominates St Nicholas Street in Aberdeen
Marks & Spencer dominates St Nicholas Street in Aberdeen. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

What next for huge city centre building to be left empty?

The building is owned by M&S, and bosses have pledged to work with the council to find a suitable alternative use for it.

Mr Keiller said his Union Street campaigners are ready to work with the chain to “carve out a fresh future for the site”.

But he added: “We cannot deny that this is a setback for Union Street.

“However, we have a firm pledge from M&S that a new use will be found for the site, one which aligns with our ambition to regenerate our city centre.”

Someone walking past the shop in the snow
The store has been part of the city centre since 1944. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

‘We share the sadness, but this won’t be like John Lewis flit’

And Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, is also putting his faith in M&S.

He said: “The people of Aberdeen are united behind efforts to regenerate Union Street and we share the sadness that many will feel at the loss of the St Nicholas store.

“However, unlike the sudden departure of John Lewis, this will be a phased migration.”

Norco House, the former John Lewis premises.
Questions have lingered over the future of Norco House ever since John Lewis left the city. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

‘M&S feels obliged to support city centre’

Mr Crighton trusts M&S will do its bit to make sure its historic home doesn’t become a very prominent boarded-up eyesore.

He continued: “We are working with a building owner which feels an obligation to support a city centre which has given it so much over multiple decades.

The entrance to the shop
The store is earmarked to close in 2025. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

And he echoed the chain’s claim that the Union Square boost represented a “vote of confidence in our city and our economy”.

“This is also a £15million investment in the wider city centre and one of the biggest retail investments the city has seen in the past decade,” he added.

Leader of the council’s Conservative group, Ryan Houghton described the announcement as a “bitter blow for many”.

He said: “While the investment plan in the Union Square shop is welcome news, there’s no escaping the fact that there will be a significant negative impact on Union Street.”

How do you feel about the announcement? Let us know in our comments section below

M&S Aberdeen closure the latest blow to city centre

The St Nicholas Street closure comes a week after the nearby Haigs food hall closed, citing traffic measures affecting footfall and rocketing costs.

And it follows the demise of the John Lewis department store a short distance away in 2021.

Debenhams also exited Aberdeen during the pandemic. 

You can keep up to date with state of the city centre with our tracker.


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