COUNCILLORS and town centre business representatives reacted with shock and sadness to news that Keighley’s Marks and Spencer store has been proposed for closure.

The business, which has been in Keighley for over 100 years, announced the news last week, and said consultations had begun with the shop’s 33 staff.

Bosses said proposals for their branch in the Airedale Shopping Centre were “difficult but necessary”.

Including Keighley, M&S has proposed eight stores for closure nationally and announced a further six will close by the end of April.

Sacha Berendji, director of retail at M&S, said that while the store will try to find roles for its Keighley workers, in some cases it “may have to consider redundancy.”

“We’re committed to transforming M&S for our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” he said.

“Stores will always be an integral part of our customer experience, alongside M&, but we have to ensure we have the right offer in the right locations.”

If the Keighley store does shut, the next closest M&S branches to the town will be Bradford Broadway (10 miles away), Ilkley Simply Food (11.5 miles), Halifax (12 miles) and Skipton Simply Food (12.5 miles).

Steve Seymour, manager of the Airedale Centre, said he understood the Keighley M&S was a “well performing” store, adding the fact its closure is only “proposed” means there is still hope.

M&S has said its proposed closures are part of its programme to modernise its UK store estate, “to better meet the changing needs of customers”.

Responding last week to confirmation of the threatened closure, Keighley Central Ward councillor Khadim Hussain said it had come as a real shock.

“It’s one of the most longstanding big names in Keighley, and it has been part and parcel of the town for so long,” he said.

“It would be really sad to lose the store.

“We’re trying to regenerate Keighley, but this does not send out a good signal.

“We are one of the biggest towns within Bradford district and we have huge potential.

“So I’d urge Bradford Council’s leaders to meet with M&S’s managers, ask them what support the council can provide and convince them that remaining in Keighley would be beneficial for them.”

Paul Howard, manager of Keighley Business Improvement District (BID), said: “Clearly the loss of M&S would be a huge blow, and I’d call on the management from the retailer to work closely with other parties to see how they can remain as a fixture in our town centre.

“Keighley and M&S have had a long and successful history together and as far as I’m aware, as a town centre store it trades well in a prime position.

“Our thoughts are with the staff and we certainly hope they find suitable employment within another store or nearby.”

Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has called on Marks and Spencer to open up a dialogue with the union to ensure staff are properly represented.

Commenting on M&S’s national plans, David Gill, Usdaw national officer, said: “This is devastating news for the staff in those stores and the uncertainty continues for everyone else.

“This salami slicing approach to reorganising the business is extremely distressing for the staff.

“We again urge M&S management to abandon their long-held resistance to recognising Usdaw as the union to represent its staff.

“Given the opportunity we’d ensure all avenues to save jobs are explored and staff are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.”

Responding to the union, an M&S spokesman said: “Our colleagues are represented by the Business Involvement Group, our network of elected, employee representatives from across every store and business unit.

“Every colleague is free to join a trade union of course, but we do not have a recognised trade union at M&S in the UK.”

M&S celebrated 100 years of trading in Keighley in 2013.

Keighley’s first M&S store opened in the Royal Arcade. The business has had a presence in Low Street since 1913, and has been in its current premises since 1935.

Councillor Peter Corkindale, a Keighley Town Councillor, said: “I see that Marks and Spencer are trying to drive another nail into Keighley’s coffin by closing the Low Street store.

“This store has been there since 1935 and as far as I know has traded successfully since that date. Every time I go in there are people shopping and a queue at the tills .

“I’m hoping that we, the town council, the MP, our local paper and other prominent citizens come together to make representation to Marks and Spencer to rethink this decision.

“I’ve no intention of trailing off to Bradford to shop, and if I did what about the other retailers in the town?

“How long before Next goes or Beales for example?”

Worth Valley Ward councillor Rebecca Poulsen, said: “This proposed closure is concerning for the staff at the Keighley store, and for the wider regeneration of Keighley.”

Meanwhile, Craven Ward councillor Adrian Naylor said the news about M&S again called into question Bradford Council’s decision to spend £60 million on Bradford city centre.

“We must see some tangible benefits that will retain or attract retailers to Keighley,” he added.

“A share of the £60 million that will be poured into Bradford would be appreciated. We need to redress this imbalance.”

However, one of Keighley’s independent stores has said despite the M&S announcement, Keighley town centre still has plenty of to attract shoppers.

A spokesman for Small Office Supplies, in North Street, said: “We will be partnering with other retailers to plan how we can best promote the wide range of products, services and events available in the town.

“Many of our longstanding customers have voiced concerns following the announcement from M&S, and we want to reassure them that Keighley has a lot to offer despite the recent news.”

She said the business will support the launch of ShopAppy – brainchild of Yorkshire resident Jackie Mulligan – which enables people to shop locally online with easy click and collect and campaigns for people to support local businesses. Customers can pick up their purchases from a convenient collections partner, with Small Office Supplies providing an easy access collection point.

Marketing manager of the business, Helen Avison, said: “There are hundreds of small shops and stalls in Keighley that provide a fabulous shopping experience. “We are so lucky to have the variety here, and to still have a vibrant market and shopping centre.

“We need to shout about our businesses more to encourage people to come and shop local.

“Very soon we will be open 24/7 online, which will enable our customers to browse Keighley shops any time of day. We are urging fellow shops and businesses to join the cause.”

“Like us, many other shops in Keighley are run by people who have invested money and time and are committed to this town.

“Our shops offer everything from foods, deli items, vinyl, clothing and stationery, to crafts, designer accessories and so much more.

“At a time when we, like many other high streets, could be downbeat, we need to promote the fact that we have a lot to offer shoppers and make it easier for them to find us and shop with us.

“We’re really sad for all at M&S in Keighley. All of the staff there are fantastic and we will be really sorry if they do close the store.

“It’s a shame as Keighley is and always has been a great place to retail from.

“The town is supported by loyal customers and we will continue to make sure they have a good reason to come and shop on the high street and in the shopping centre.”

Members of the public responding on Keighley News’s social media to the closure threat expressed their disappointment last week, and voiced sympathy for the M&S staff.

One Keighley News reader posted: “Keighley is a dying town, there’s literally nothing here anymore!

“Investment is needed for a mass development in terms of a shopping complex, with a few restaurants and a cinema etc.”

Another person suggested: “M&S, why not take a lease on a smaller unit in Keighley and provide a food-only store? Your food outlets in Skipton and Ilkley are perfect examples.”