M&S to cut 60 clothing and home stores

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The rest will be turned into food stores and chief executive Steve Rowe also plans to open 200 new Simply Food shops as part of turnaround plans, reports the BBC.

M&S will also exit 10 loss-making international markets.

The announcements came as M&S reported falling sales and profits in the six months to the end of September.

Mr Rowe said of the store closures: “This is about building a sustainable, more profitable business that’s relevant for our customers in a digital shopping age.”

With new food stores opening, “more towns will have an M&S,” he told the BBC.

Mr Rowe would not be drawn on job losses, arguing that overall more stores would open than close.

He added that customers still “love” M&S, but that it can do better.

Sales decline

However, its half-year results show the problems facing Mr Rowe, who took over in April.

Clothing sales in existing stores fell 5.9 per cent, while its stronger performing food sales also fell 0.9 per cent.

Pre-tax profit dropped 88 per cent to £25.1m, from £216m in the same period a year ago, partly due to higher pension costs.

Asked if M&S would raise prices on clothing and other goods to compensate for the weaker pound, Mr Rowe said it currently planned to absorb the higher costs.

“We’ve obviously got currency pressures that have come onto us recently but we intend to mitigate those through better sourcing, by better volumes with our manufacturers and our intention is that we won’t have to pass those price rises onto the consumer in the New Year,” he told the BBC

The retailer has over 300 full-range sites, which sell clothing, homeware and food, and nearly 600 Simply Food shops in the UK.

‘Dunkirk moment’

It will also be closing 53 international stores, including 10 in China, seven in France, and the rest across Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

The retailer said it would start a consultation with about 2,100 employees about those proposals.

Retail Vision analyst John Ibbotson said: “M&S’s humiliating withdrawal from 10 overseas markets is… a Dunkirk moment for [the] iconic British brand.”

Investors were unsure about M&S’s results and store closure plans, with shares initially rising before falling back in early trading.