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 Oxford Street (c) Google Street View

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.

Proposed development (c) M&S / Pilbrow & Partners

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3 comments
  1. Sean says:

    I assumed this article was going to be about the branch further down towards TCR, didn’t realise there was another one that was not only bigger but also is their flagship!

    I wonder if they’ll be able to justify having both plus the food store on TCR in the new normal. I remember the food store staff pre-pandemic were complaining that head office had axed their security guards and some other staff members. Though I suppose if they did have intensions to shut one or more of them they probably would have done it by now.

    • Jay says:

      I’m surprised you didn’t realise there were two M&S in Oxford Street, they are a bit hard to miss.
      The one next to Selfridges is the largest M&S in the country and if they are shrinking that one down, it doesn’t bode well for all the others.
      I live in the city with the second biggest M&S and a John Lewis, both of which are shaky and we’ve already lost Debenhams.
      People are going to stop coming to cities for that ‘special’ shopping experience ☹️

  2. Blindfold says:

    What city Jay? I thought when the MetroCentre opened in Gateshead it had the largest M&S in the country. The M&S in Carlisle is huge for such a small city as they took over the entire Littlewoods store next door.

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