UK retail giant M&S is set to close its store city centre store in Sunderland, the firm has announced. 

The store, which has been located on High Street West for decades, will close following "changing shopping habits". 

Staff at the store were told of the closure on Tuesday (January 16). The shop will not shut until the new, larger shop at Washington Galleries, is ready to open. 

If the closure goes ahead, staff in Sunderland will be offered alternative roles at other locations, and in the new Washington Galleries store. 

One devastated shopper said: "What a shame - M&S is probably the only reason I'd go into Sunderland."

Another added: "This is such sad news, the shop has been around for as long as I have lived."

Graham Soult, North East retail expert, wrote on Twitter: "Given M&S trends (new stores, many out of town), the closure of Sunderland's branch is not a surprise.

"But I still refuse to believe that even a food-only store in the city centre wouldn't be viable. Loyal older customers aren't going to travel to a retail park in Washington.

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"The important thing is to not let it distract from all the positive stuff that is happening in Sunderland.

"I'm not aware of M&S ever cancelling a closure after 'consultation', but if Sunderland kicks up enough of a stink you never know! There is a strong case to make."

There are still businesses moving onto the high street in Sunderland - at the end of this month, The Botanist will open a new bar in Keel Square.