Marks & Spencer has confirmed plans to further accelerate its store closure programme by setting a new target of 100 branches, while also scaling back its food expansion.
The retail bellwether today announced its latest tranche of UK stores proposed for closure or set to close as it reshapes its UK store estate as part of its five-year turnaround scheme.
A further 14 M&S clothing & home stores have been proposed for closure this year alone, bringing its new total target to 100 stores closed down by 2022.
Of that new target, 21 stores have already been shuttered since chief executive Steve Rowe’s turnaround scheme was first launched in November 2016.
Nine of the 14 new stores added to the list today are proposed for closure, which means M&S will now enter a period of consultation with all 626 affected employees.
Three other stores have already been confirmed to close by the end of July and another two will close by early 2019 to coincide with the opening of new nearby food stores.
Should the nine earmarked stores close down, M&S said all staff would be redeployed or offered redeployment at other stores before redundancy is considered.
The retailer also announced today that 15 fewer owned Simply Food stores to open this year as it scales back its food opening programme.
One of the aims of the turnaround scheme is to take third of M&S’s sales online.
“We are making good progress with our plans to reshape our store estate to be more relevant to our customers and support our online growth plans,” M&S retail, operations and property director Sacha Berendji said.
“Closing stores isn’t easy but it is vital for the future of M&S. Where we have closed stores, we are seeing an encouraging number of customers moving to nearby stores and enjoying shopping with us in a better environment, which is why we’re continuing to transform our estate with pace.”
M&S’s five-year transformation plan includes creating fewer, more efficient yet enhanced clothing & home stores, online investment, as well as converting some stores to food-only.
Other aspects of the plan include a major shake-up of the senior leadership team, especially since Archie Norman was appointment chairman last November.
Today’s announcement comes as M&S prepares to unveil its full-year report on Wednesday.
Analysts’ consensus estimates suggest food sales at the department store could have dropped by 0.2 per cent, while City analysts think they could have dropped as much as 1.1 per cent over the last year.
Underlying pre-tax profits are also set to drop six per cent to £573 million, but bottom line profits are expected to shoot up to £458 million from £176.4 million last year.