M&S set to close dozens of high street stores

M&S set to close dozens of high street stores

Kerry Wise
November 5, 2016

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

The amount of shops to close is said to be "in the low dozens" and will take place over a number of years but there is no indication exactly which ones are earmarked for the axe.

A number of other stores are expected to be relocated. But given the growth of e-commerce, they do expect Rowe to signal a small number of store closures and a desire for a smaller estate over time, as well as plans to correct some badly performing shops through re-locations and new layouts.

Since taking over from Marc Bolland in April, Mr Rowe has proposed axing more than 500 head office jobs in an attempt to exert a tighter grip on its cost-base.

The retailer is understood to be considering closing its flagship stores in France along with the bulk of its Chinese operations.

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Worldwide retrenchment will also feature in next week's presentation, with Bloomberg reporting this week that the M&S chief would signal an exit from some of its stores in China. Meanwhile, some of the retailer's clothing stores will be replaced by its more successful food offerings.

M&S has over 300 full-range sites and almost 600 Simply Food shops.

Despite the closures of some of its high street stores, the overall number of M&S-branded outlets will increase, with another 200 Simply Food stores due to open by 2018-19 under previously announced plans.

A spokesman for M&S declined to comment.

As much as the ongoing rout in the shares could be a mere symptom of angst among stock market investors in general, it could also mean investors are yet to be convinced the retailer is any closer to reaching a turning point - some six months on from the change of leadership that brought CEO Steve Rowe into the boardroom.