Marks & Spencer shuts its doors in Walsall after 75 years
Customers have been left disappointed after retail giant Marks & Spencer finally shut its doors at its 'iconic' town centre spot.
Walsall's branch of the department store closed after more than 75 years' trading to customers in the area on Saturday.
Shoppers have since spoken of their dismay after hearing the store will now stand empty, with no immediate plans for another retailer to claim the space.
Former court usher Delia Wilkes recalled using the 'iconic' store as a meeting point and said the closure would be a 'big loss' to the town.
The grandmother-of-two regularly popped into the store when she worked at nearby Walsall Magistrates' Court but made fewer visits once retiring.
Ms Wilkes, who lives in Cheslyn Hay, added: "I think it's really sad. Walsall has been Marks & Spencer. Everyone comes to Walsall and you meet at Marks & Spencer.
"I was surprised because I did not know this one was closing. Everyone I spoke to inside the store was devastated."
Her daughter Sandra Smallman blamed a rise in online shopping for the demise of the store, which first opened on June 1, 1943.
The 56-year-old support worker added: "We don't come here as often as we used to but it's really sad. In the 70s and 80s we would come down to the store on a weekly basis.
"It's [due to] online but we are all guilty of shopping online."
The former flagship Saddlers Shopping Centre store's closure was part of the company''s nationwide plan to shut underperforming branches.
Mother-of-three Sheena Beesley said Marks & Spencer's failure to attract younger shoppers through its doors was the cause of its downfall.
The 36-year-old, who lives in the town, suggested the empty retail space could instead now be filled with more places to eat.
She added: "It's aimed more at older people so I think older people will miss it. But as for younger people, they don't go in there unless it's to use the toilets. There's nothing for the younger generation."
Her daughters Tailah, 13, and Latia, 17, agreed and added: "It's more for older people and it's really expensive as well."
Val Pickering raised concern's the store's closure would now affect trade across the town centre, with fewer shoppers visiting remaining stores.
The 82-year-old, who lives in Rushall, said: "I'm disappointed really because I think it was a big asset to the town.
"Every time I have been there, it has always been jam-packed. It's always been here."
Father-of-six Mukhtar Edroos said he feared trade across the town centre would continue to decline unless cheaper parking facilities were made available to residents.
The 56-year-old said: "It's a big shop that has closed, it's not good for Walsall. It's not like a town, it's like a village.
"There are parking problems in the area, if parking was free, business would increase."