Marks & Spencer is to shut four of its stores in the Republic of Ireland with the loss of 180 jobs.

The closures follow a strategic review of the Irish portfolio and harsh economic conditions since the onset of the financial crisis.

However Marks & Spencer, which has traded in Ireland for 35 years, also unveiled plans for a flagship store in Limerick which will create 250 jobs and is expected to open in 2016. M&S will also invest in its store on Dublin’s Grafton Street to turn it into a “regional centre”.

Head of M&S Ireland Jonathan Glenister said: “M&S remains fully committed to its Irish business.

“We have extraordinarily loyal Irish customers, but the last few years have been very challenging.

“During this time our Republic of Ireland business has been under continuous review and we have made savings and found efficiencies wherever possible.

“However, the retail sector outlook has not improved and we have to act now to protect the long term good of the company.”

He said M&S was “closely engaging” with trade unions Mandate and SIPTU over the closures.

The closures are Mullingar in Co Westmeath, Tallaght in Dublin, and two Simply Food stores in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, and Naas in Kildare. Following the shutterings, M&S will have 16 full-line stores and one Simply Food in Ireland.

The tough trading climate in Ireland has prompted other British retailers to restructure their operations in the country.

DIY retailers B&Q and Homebase and fashion retailer Monsoon have all had to place their Irish businesses into examinership, a process similar to administration, in order to slim them down.