Philip Green to rescue of M&S

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The Independent Online
Philip Green, the controversial former head of discount retailer Amber Day, has charged to the rescue of Marks and Spencer, whose Manchester store was devastated in last month's IRA bomb attack.

The irrepressible Mr Green is turning over 90,000 square feet of space on three floors of his Lewis's department store in the city to M&S.

Britain's biggest retailer is still counting the cost of the damage, which runs into millions and likely to mean the total rebuilding of one of its flagship stores. The move, however, swiftly restores a presence in the UK's fourth largest city that dates back over a century.

"It's brilliant. It's very different for us, but after three weeks we've been able to find prime retail space," said an M&S spokeswoman.

"There's a tremendous feeling in the city. It's like the spirit of wartime. We're not going to take the bomb lying down. We've been in Manchester since 1894."

The flamboyant Mr Green is no stranger to comebacks himself. Ousted by institutions in 1992 from Amber Day after a profits setback, he bounced back the following May, using his pounds 1.1m pay-off and the sale of his Amber Day stake to buy Parker & Franks, a struggling chain of 54 shops selling cut-price clothes and gifts in the North of England.

His return to the big-time, however, came with the purchase of Owen & Owen early last year. Founded in 1868, and older than M&S, the firm counts five Lewis's stores among its 13 department stores, and Mr Green set about changing a negelected format that had lost its way.

Late last year he added Sears' Olympus sports chain in a pounds 25m deal that brought 200 shops and concessions.

Women's fashion chain Mark One followed this February, adding 95 shops to a burgeoning Manchester-based empire of nearly 400 shops with sales understood to be running at around pounds 500m a year.

"We all have a commitment to bringing Manchester back to life, and I am delighted to welcome M&S," he said last week.

"By sharing the available space in the Lewis's store, the focus for quality shopping will remain in the city centre."

M&S will re-open there in late Autumn and has also taken 15,000 square feet from the Co-Operative Insurance Society at Spring Gardens in the city.

It will sell clothes, furnishings and gifts from Lewis's and food from the Co-op site.