Marks and Spencer has pulled down the shutters on its flagship Sunderland city centre store to the disappointment of shoppers.

The brand confirmed earlier this year that its Sunderland shop on High Street West in the city was to face the axe.

M&S blamed “changing shopping habits” for the decision which sparked fury among locals.

An online petition garnered more than 2,300 signatures in a bid to get the chain to reverse its decision.

But the efforts of campaigners came to no avail and the shop closed the doors for the final time at 4pm on Saturday (May 25).

The Northern Echo: Marks and Spener.Marks and Spener. (Image: PA)

It comes as a brand new M&S is set to open at the Washington Galleries on Thursday (May 30), after bosses promised the Sunderland branch would not be closed until its new site opened.

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."

Meanwhile, Lib Dem councillor Paul Edgeworth said: “Today is a dark day for Sunderland with the loss of our last proper flagship store. We have seen from places like South Shields and Durham just how damaging losing M&S from the High Street can be.

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“I fear Sunderland is now set to go the same way”

When the closure was initially announced, 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.”