‘Dozens’ of stores could close under latest shake-up at Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer could be set to close several dozen stores, according to reports.Picture Martin Rose

Marks & Spencer could be set to close several dozen stores, according to reports.Picture Martin Rose/Eastnews

Marks & Spencer could be gearing up to shut dozens of its high street shops and phase out clothing at some stores as part of a major overhaul.

Chief executive Steve Rowe, who took over from Marc Bolland in April, is expected to announce a major reorganisation of the company's UK portfolio next week, according to media reports yesterday.

The number of stores set for closure are said to be 'in the low dozens', and will take place over a number of years. Meanwhile, some of the retailer's clothing stores will be replaced by its more successful food offerings.

M&S declined to issue a statement, adding that it would not comment on 'rumours or speculation'.

The store closures would be the latest major shake-up by the new chief executive, after he axed 525 jobs at the retailer's head office in August in a bid to cut costs.

The company said the staff cuts would result in significant savings, amounting to about 1% of its UK operating costs per year, though it added that costs were still expected to rise by around 3.5% this year.

Mr Rowe has also embarked on a major overhaul of staff pay in an effort to mitigate the impact of the National Living Wage.

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M&S is expected to report a difficult second quarter for its beleaguered clothing arm next week.

Analysts are forecasting a 3.9% drop in like-for-like sales from the general merchandising division, after clothing sales plummeted 8.9% in the first three months of the year – the worst sales performance for more than a decade.

Mr Rowe is also expected to use the group's first half results statement on Tuesday to announce a shake-up of the retailer's international operations which currently involve more than 450 stores, some of which may also close.

A spokesperson for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) said: 'If today's rumours of large-scale reorganisation and store closures at Mark & Spencer are true then it is very disappointing that this has leaked out to the media rather than be briefed out to the staff first.

'Staff in all stores will today be extremely concerned as to what their future holds.'