Another large Oxford Street retailer is looking to downsize in light of the recent surge in online shopping, and this time it’s M&S. Although the pandemic inspired surge in online shopping is the catalyst for the change, it was always likely to happen eventually, and even before the pandemic, plans were being developed for an Oxford Street with fewer retail stores.
M&S’s largest retail store has been on its site next to Selfridges since 1930, although originally it was a much smaller shop than it is today.
The M&S store is actually made up of three separate buildings that were joined internally to make one shop. The Edwardian classic frontage, Orchard House on the corner, a 1980s red brick building, Neale House, and around the side, a last 1960s era building on Orchard Street.
The grand imposing Orchard House, built in 1929-30 was once the main training centre for Lyons teashops, with the company occupying the 3rd-5th floors of the building from 1930 to 1967.
If you look very carefully, underneath the bronze clock is a small horse head – a chess piece Knight, and the last remaining from a set that ran around the building all inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
Although built by Lyons, they only wanted the upper floors, so the ground and basement floors were rented out to M&S, and the corner to the National Provincial Bank.
In 1967, when Lyons moved out M&S took over the whole building, and they built an extension at the side — which is today the food hall, and they’ve been the sole occupant ever since.
The retailer is now planning to redevelop the site, replacing it with a smaller retail outlet, and new office spaces to be rented out. Sadly, the classic frontage on the corner will go in the proposal, which does sit nicely next to Selfridges, but as it’s also opposite a massive modern glass and steel building, it’s unlikely that heritage lobbies will be able to save it.
The current building is 5 storeys above the ground in height, and the replacement will be 9 storeys, although they will step back the floors at the upper levels so the building looks comparable in height to Selfridges when seen from local streets.
There’s a public consultation at the moment here, and if planning permission is granted then construction will start in 2023 with completion in 2027.