RETAIL giant Marks and Spencer's decision to move out of Newport city centre is a "devastating" blow that will hit other retailers hard, says a senior member of the chamber of trade.
The company's decision to bring down the shutters on its Commercial Street store and move to Newport Retail Park at Spytty, early in 2012, will deprive the city centre of a key retail presence,
said Ken Ellis, until recently the president of Newport Chamber of Trade.
The move, announced on Monday, comes little more than a week after Next and Monsoon revealed plans to close their Commercial Street shops in the next three months.
And Mr Ellis, who was for many years prior to his retirement a manager at the city's branch of British Home Stores, said he fears the city centre is in danger of being killed off.
"Throughout the country, Marks and Spencer is a very important presence on the High Street and this is devastating for Newport," he said.
"M&S is also an anchor store for new retail developments and given this move, there could be a question mark over that, regarding a presence in a new city centre shopping development."
Mr Ellis said city centre retailers of all sizes have had a hard time recently, with Newport Market suffering too.
"To have something like this happen now is awful. These are very worrying times," he said.
"I do not have the very latest trend figures, but I know that earlier in the year, Saturday was not the biggest shopping day of the week in Newport.
"In 40 years' experience in the retail I have never known Saturday not be the busiest day of the week.
M&S has announced that its proposed Spytty store will be "significantly bigger" than its existing store, and offer a wider range of goods. About 30 new jobs will be created, with its 70 city
centre staff able to transfer there.
Newport city council, fresh from winning its battle with supermarket giant Iceland over compulsory purchase of the latter's city centre store, hopes M&S will rethink its proposal.
The company would not comment further.