The union representing Marks & Spencer staff has expressed shock at news that the retailer’s bosses could decide to close even more stores and jobs cuts as a result.
Speaking to shareholders at the AGM on Tuesday, M&S chairman Archie Normal and chief executive Steve Rowe both hinted there could be even more store closures as the bellwether retailer powers on with its radical turnaround scheme.
Norman said the size of the M&S store portfolio had become a “drag” on its performance and that “this business is on a burning platform”, and refused to rule out if the store closure acceleration in announced May would be the last.
Meanwhile, Rowe said “there are likely to be more redundancies” as a result of plans to cut costs by £350 million by 2021.
Usdaw has responded to the news by urging M&S management to “abandon their long-held resistance” to allowing the union to represent the staff.
“M&S management are not treating their staff with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Usdaw national officer Dave Gill said.
“It is deeply regrettable that they should hear such devastating assessments of the business through the media.
“There is a clear breakdown in communications, the staff are not being properly consulted on the future of their jobs and they need to be properly represented an independent trade union.”
Norman was parachuted into the chairman role in November last year to help with the M&S turnaround scheme, which was launched the year prior.
Apart from store closures and a deceleration of its Simple Food expansion, the retailer has so far improved its IT systems and shut down some warehouses in its distribution network.
Most recently, the department store and food retailer in May said it planned to close 100 stores by 2022, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
“All staff in M&S stores were put under threat of redundancy in November 2016 when the company announced a restructuring that would affect around 100 shops over a five year period,” Gill said.
“At the time they did not say where the axe will fall and so far we’ve seen three waves of closure announcements, it now appears there are much more to come.”
He added: “This remark at the AGM only makes matters worse, it is no way to treat staff.
“Usdaw has thousands of members working for M&S and the staff now need, more than ever, the representation and support of an independent trade union… interrogating the company’s business case for this store reorganisation.”
M&S responded to Usdaw with the following statement.
“We’re committed to transforming M&S for our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” a spokeswoman told Retail Gazette.
“Stores will always be an integral part of our customer experience, alongside M&S.com, but we have to ensure we have the right offer in the right locations.
“When we do make the difficult decision to close a store, our colleagues will always be the first to know.”
M&S recorded a 62.1 per cent plunge in pre-tax profit to £66.8 million in the year to March 31, primarily due to £321.1 million in costs linked to store closures.