M&S to close six stores as it tries to ‘stay in tune’ with shoppers


Marks & Spencer has announced plans to close six stores, affecting 380 jobs, but the retailer has pledged to find staff alternative posts in nearby outlets, The Guardian reports.

The announcement comes after Debenhams, Britain’s second-largest department store chain, warned that several hundred jobs are at risk as part of a shakeup that will close up to 10 shops and 11 warehouses.

M&S said last year that it planned to close 30 UK stores and convert 45 more into food-only shops as part of a business overhaul designed to slash the amount of shopfloor space devoted to its ailing clothing ranges.

On Thursday, the retailer confirmed that the first “full-line” stores – which sell clothing, homeware and food – to close would be in Portsmouth, Slough, Warrington and Wokingham. It is also closing Simply Food outlets in York’s Monks Cross centre and Worksop.

The M&S chief executive, Steve Rowe, said stores would always be an integral part of the business but customers’ shopping habits were changing.

“Picking up food for now or tonight rather than doing one big shop, or browsing and shopping online and collecting in store, are great examples of this,” he said. “We are committed to adapting our business so that we stay in tune with our customers.”

Despite the closure programme, M&S is still opening new stores, with 34 food and two full-line shops due to open in the next six months, expected to create 1,400 jobs.

Locations include food halls in London’s Bishopsgate, Huntingdon, Aylesbury and Spinningfields in central Manchester. The new clothing, home and food stores will open in Bracknell and Rushden this summer.

City analysts have said M&S has too many stores at a time when sales are transferring to the internet. The retailer has 959 UK shops, comprised of 304 full-line stores and 615 food branches. The shakeup of the company’s estate will mean a reduction of 10 per cent in the floor space devoted to racks of skirts, jumpers and trousers. The plan will cost £150m over three years.

Rowe said the plans would mean “more M&S colleagues working in an increased number of convenient locations”.

“We will open new stores, some will reduce in size, some will move, some will close and others will convert to food only,” he said. “Each proposal we make will be very carefully considered with our colleagues and customers firmly front of mind. It is our intention that nobody leaves M&S and we will work as hard as possible to ensure that we can deliver against this promise.”

The retailer said staff affected by the store closure programme would be offered “guaranteed redeployment” at a nearby branch. In Monks Cross, for example, the company said there is a full-line shop within 500 metres, but in Worksop, the new store it highlights as an alternative employer is 9 miles (14km) away.