Marks & Spencer has announced it will close about 60 clothing and home stores over the next five years, in an effort to turn around its struggling business.
Chief executive Steve Rowe, who began his M&S career as a Saturday worker in the Croydon store in the 1980s, earlier warned that he would have to take tough decisions to restore the retailer to its former glory.
The changes mean 30 stores will shut completely in the UK and 45 full line stores will be "downsized or replaced" as Simply Food stores, as M&S tries to capitalise on the success of its food and drink products.
Details of the restructure came as M&S reported an 88 per cent fall in pre tax profit to £25m in the six months to the end of September, as sales of clothing and food declined.
Mr Rowe also outlined plans to shut 53 stores across 10 international markets, including 10 in China and seven in France, while pulling out of Belgium, Estonia, Hungary and Lithuania, putting around 2,100 jobs at risk
Mr Rowe, who found that M&S had become too complex and inefficient in a review of the business after his appointment this year, said: “In May, we laid out a number of questions which we would answer as part of our strategic review."
"We committed to creating a simpler business with customers at its heart, and taking action to start to recover our Clothing & Home business and continue to grow in Food. These are tough decisions, but vital to building a future M&S that is simpler, more relevant, multi-channel and focused on delivering sustainable returns."
Shares in M&S plunged in early trading, as investors weighed up the implication of the retailer’s announcement to cut store numbers both at home and abroad.
The retailer started the morning near the top of the FTSE 100, with shares up as much as 2 per cent before plunging by 3.51 per cent at 9 am. Shares were still down 4.21 per cent in afternoon trading.
John Ibbotson, director of the retail consultancy Retail Vision, said the decision to withdraw from 10 overseas markets was a “humiliating” moment for the brand.
He said: "When in July it [M&S] posted its worst results for a decade, many thought things couldn’t get any worse. But they just have."
"Today's younger shoppers simply don’t have an emotional bond with M&S clothing, and older people are losing it. As a result, they're shopping elsewhere, whether at Next, New Look, Primark and other affordable luxury brands."
Earlier in September, Rowe announced plans to cut more than 500 jobs at its London head office in Paddington.
M&S revealed its worst first quarter in clothing and homeware sales for almost a decade in July.
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