M&S meets City as job fears grow

PETER SALSBURY, the new Marks & Spencer chief executive, is to meet City analysts next week amid growing speculation that Britain's top retailer is to announce its first job cuts since 1992.

The company yesterday was forced to deny reports that it was poised to axe 800 senior and middle management staff in a bid to slash costs and increase efficiencies.

A spokeswoman said that the stories were "purely speculative" and no decision had been taken over redundancies. She added that even if M&S was to reduce its workforce, "a figure of 800 people is totally beyond the realm of possibilities".

However, she conceded that the blue-chip retailer, which was rocked by a shock profit warning last month, could soon announce the results of a wide-ranging review of its business.

The internal inquiry, which is looking at cutting costs and restructuring M&S operations, is not due to finish until June. However, the spokeswoman suggested that some cost-cutting measures could be implemented before then.

At the time of January' s disastrous trading statement, Mr Salsbury said M&S would cut staff through natural wastage and only use redundancies as a last resort.

City analysts said that they were expecting some staff reductions over the next few months. "Job losses would not come as a surprise. It is something we have been expecting for some time," one said.

The spokeswoman claimed that Mr Salsbury's tour of the City was a "meet and greet" exercise to present the new chief executive to top retail analysts.