The retailer has previously announced plans to shut down 100 stores by 2022 amid tougher high street conditions and changing consumer habits, but will reportedly be bringing this target forward to 2020 – two years ahead of schedule. It is understood some stores will be moved to new sites with cheaper rents or converted to food-only outlets. M&S has already shut down 43 stores across the UK as part of the estate programme, with 14 branches closing since the end of March alone. The company has plans to move a third of its sales online and plans to have fewer stores in better locations.
M&S is expected to unveil a decline in full-year profits this week, with analysts forecasting a 10 percent fall in pre-tax profits to £519million.
Clothing and home like-for-like sales are braced to record a drop of 1.4 percent, while food sales are predicted to have declined by 2.4 percent.
Chief executive Steve Rowe defended his strategy and the store closures this week as he insisted the 135-year-old retail giant is on track to deliver the “biggest transformation in UK retail history”.
As well as shop closures, Mr Rowe said changes were being made behind the scene, including an overhaul of the retailer’s IT technology and warehouses being shut down.
he M&S boss also maintained his vision of moving a large chunk of sales online, of which he wants to boost digital clothing sales to a third from the 18 percent online sales recorded last year.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, he said: ”At this stage we’re more interested in the changes we make and the pace of change rather than immediate commercial result.
“That’s how we are judging ourselves.”
When asked to confirm reports of the shop closures being brought forward, M&S told Express.co.uk the company does not comment on speculation.
As part of its store closure strategy, the retailer has previously said they are “transforming our estate to serve people in the way they want to be served”.
Some of the stores which have already closed include: Andover, Basildon, Birkenhead, Bournemouth, Bridlington, Clacton, Covent Garden, Crewe (relocation), Darlington, Dover, Durham, Falkirk, Fareham, Fforestfach, Greenock (relocation), Keighley, Kettering, New Mersey Speke Shopping Park, Newmarket, Newry (relocation), Northampton, Portsmouth, Putney, Redditch, Slough, Stockport, Stockton, Walsall, Warrington and Wokingham.
Earlier this year, M&S made further steps toward its digital strategy by securing a £750million deal to buy half of the retail business of Ocado to create “an unrivalled online offer for our customers”.
The new deal means M&S food will be available to buy on Ocado from September 2020 at the latest.