2,100 jobs could go as Marks & Spencer close 53 international stores and 30 in the UK

 
Natasha Clark
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Inside a Marks & Spencer food store
Move to food: Marks & Spencer want to cut back on clothing and boost Simply Food stores (Source: Getty)

Marks & Spencer will consult with 2,100 staff in its international stores as it seeks to close 53 unprofitable branches overseas, it was announced this morning.

In a bold move new chief executive Steve Rowe, who came into the top job in April, said 30 clothing and homeware shops in the UK will also be shut over the next five years.

An additional 45 will be downsized or replaced by Simply Food outlets, while some stores will move to more profitable locations.

Read more: Marks & Spencer is shutting its flagship store in Paris

Rowe's comments came after the retailer reported falling sales and profits in its interim results today, and unveiled the next stage of its attempts to restructure the business, moving away from a focus on clothing and towards food.

Underlying pre-tax profit was down 18.6 per cent to £231.3m from £284m, while statutory pre-tax profit plunged 88.4 per cent to £25.1m.

Shares dropped on the news, sending it to the bottom of the FTSE 100, while analysts urged management to make "seismic changes" to address the problems of the struggling retailer.

M&S price rises on the horizon?

At an investor event this morning, Rowe also refused to rule out the possibility of price rises as a result of the falling pound.

Instead, he said he will mitigate" the impact by improving sourcing and supply chains, and will only raise prices "as a last resort."

"Wherever possible we will avoid passing [price increases] on to our customers," he said, and noted that the retailer had reduced prices by 17 per cent overall in the last half of the year.

He added there was a "fair degree of optimism" among consumers at the moment.

"Traditionally... during a downturn... M&S benefited as people went out for dinner less and bought M&S food instead," he said.

From clothes to food

Rowe announced plans to reduce the number of clothing sales to four a year, including just one online sale, down from nine last year.

In order to try and minimise losses, M&S has also cut down its range, reducing options overall by 10 per cent, and in womenswear by 20 per cent. Sub-brands Indigo, Collezione and North Coast will be scrapped, with more focus being places on Autograph, Per Una and Blue Harbour.

Read more: M&S boss wrote to George Osborne to defend benefit cuts for staff

"This is not the beginning of the end, this is the beginning of the beginning," Rowe said, defending the store closures. He said it was "vital" in order to make sure Marks & Spencer can be more "relevant" and "modern" in the future.

Meanwhile, the food division of the business was looking more positive, and the plan is to move a higher percentage of the business towards food and drink sales in future. Rowe said he wants M&S to focus on the trend for healthy, convenience meals, and to improve its selection of specialist foods.

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