Marks & Spencer has confirmed plans to close up to 14 stores, putting nearly 500 jobs at risk in what it said were “vital” changes for the future of the high street retailer.
Six stores: Birkenhead near Liverpool, Bournemouth, Durham, Fforestfach in Swansea, Putney in south London and Redditch in Worcestershire, will close by the end of April. M&S said all staff would be moving to nearby stores.
Consultation is underway on the closure of a further eight stores, employing 468 staff, including Andover in Hampshire, Bridlington in Yorkshire and Falmouth in Cornwall. Employees will be offered redeployment in other stores or redundancy.
The M&S closures follow store management cuts at Tesco and Sainsbury’s, which have put thousands of jobs at risk. Debenhams and House of Fraser have also revealed plans to close or downsize stores.
Sacha Berendji, director of retail at Marks & Spencer said: “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.
“We don’t want any colleagues to leave M&S and we will work with each colleague individually on what is best for them as we endeavour to give everyone a role. However, we accept in some cases we may have to consider redundancy.
“We believe these changes are vital for the future of M&S and we will continue to accelerate the programme, taking tough but necessary decisions, as we focus on making M&S special,” he said.
The store closures are part of a plan to shutter 30 UK stores and convert 45 more into food-only outlets as M&S cuts back on floor space devoted to clothing.
M&S is attempting to become more efficient and reshape its business as profits fall amid a shift to buying online and heavy competition from a broad range of more fashionable rivals. Retailers of all kinds also face rising costs from the increase in the legal minimum wage, higher business rates and inflation related to the fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote.
The company has closed and sold off stores overseas, outsourced its 430-strong IT team and is moving a clothing and homewares distribution centre from London to Welham Green, Hertfordshire as part of its revival plan under chief executive Steve Rowe.
M&S had also slimmed down its plans for more Simply Food stores with just 36 owned and franchise stores expected to open over the next six months. New locations will include Broadstone in Dorset, Streatham Hill in south London and St Albans in Hertfordshire.
The group had announced plans for 200 more Simply Food outlets, but new chairman Archie Norman, the former Asda and ITV boss, insisted on scaling back the plans while M&S sharpens prices and improves its products.
Where the stores are closing
Closing by end of April: Birkenhead, Bournemouth, Durham, Fforestfach, Putney and Redditch
Eight more planned closures: Andover, Basildon, Bridlington, Denton (Outlet), Falmouth, Fareham, Keighley and Stockport