Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has reacted to news that retail giant Marks & Spencer is making a stronger move online and is moving away from town centres.

M&S said during the pandemic the shift to online shopping had ‘increased imperative’ to reduce its clothing and home trading spaces.

The company added that many town centres had ‘lost impetus’ due to ‘failed local authority or government policy’.

Relocations of shops from older multi-floor buildings with poor access and parking to the ‘edge of town’ are to occur.

The retail giant said it was investing in many stores that had been relocated to the edges of towns.

Because of this move, roughly 110 main stores are to close on the high street as it focuses on more lucrative locations.

68 of these shops have closed already and another 32 will go over the next three years, with their boss Steve Rowe claiming M&S was ‘moving with the customer, where the customer is working and shopping’.

In total, there was a 56.6 per cent increase in online sales for M&S, while in-store sales fell by 11.2 per cent.

Pre-tax profits of £329million for the year up to April 2 were reported, from a loss of £209million last year.

READ MORE: Library closed as something has died on the roof

Reacting to this news, and commenting on the state of high streets presently, Suzanne Caldwell, managing director of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our high streets and town centres are a real challenge.

“It’s not surprising that big retailers are increasingly focussing on online and looking to save costs by moving to more edge of town locations.

“But that does mean we lose a mix and vibrancy that smaller retailers, leisure and so on will struggle to make up on their own.

“Looking at places that are doing better it appears to be the mix of smaller and larger retailers, eating and drinking, leisure, work and housing that is working best.

“With a crucial part of that getting people living in town and city centres, and as part of the mix, ideas like food halls with a mix of offers and a central eating space.  

 “But both businesses and local authorities have financial challenges and without sufficient income their ability to invest and be part of  addressing these issues is limited.”

READ MORE: 'Strikes will hit summer supplies of Coca Cola, Heineken, Brewdog', says union