M&S to shut 80 stores; those in S'pore not affected

 A Marks & Spencer logo is seen in front of one of their food stores in Paris, France on Nov 8, 2016.
A Marks & Spencer logo is seen in front of one of their food stores in Paris, France on Nov 8, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Britain's Marks & Spencer plans to shut more than 80 stores at home and abroad at a cost of up to £550 million (S$950 million) as its new boss tries to revive the retailer by shifting its focus more towards food than fashion.

However, stores in Singapore are unaffected by the move.

"Customers can continue to shop at our 10 stores in Singapore. Working together with our longstanding franchise partner Robinsons, part of the Al-Futtaim Group, we will focus on improving our customers' experience and driving profitability," said Mr James Harvey, head of international franchise at M&S.

"Customers are at the heart of everything we do in Singapore and recently we've introduced chilled food and our new cafe to the market for the first time, as well as introducing our new boutique store format at Raffles City and Parkway Parade," he added.

M&S, whose shares have fallen 22 per cent so far this year, reported a 19 per cent slump in first-half profit yesterday and another decline in quarterly clothing sales.

Mr Steve Rowe, a company veteran who took over as chief executive officer in April, has the task of reviving a 132-year-old institution that has fallen out of fashion over the last decade after long being the place where many Britons shopped for clothes.

M&S said it will also retreat overseas, closing 53 stores in 10 loss-making markets, including France and China.

"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," he said.

M&S has seen its market share eroded by rivals like Next and a push from supermarkets into clothing, while younger shoppers favour H&M's cheaper prices.

Mr Rowe plans to close about 30 stores selling clothing, homewares and food and convert another 45 into food stores over the next five years. That will mean a reduction of 10 per cent in the floor space devoted to racks of skirts, jumpers and trousers.

"This is not about the M&S brand disappearing," Mr Rowe said. "In fact, with our Simply Food (opening) programme, we will be in more locations in the future than we are in today."

The cost of the programme would be £50 million for the next three years, rising to about £100 million in the following two years.

Expansion will focus on M&S' food business, traditionally lower margin, which contributes over half of group revenue and about a third of profit.

M&S said it will also retreat overseas, closing 53 stores in 10 loss-making markets, including France and China, at a cost of £150 million to £200 million over the coming year, concentrating instead on its profitable franchise model.

M&S trades from 468 overseas stores across 58 international markets, with 194 owned stores and 274 franchise stores.

M&S will seek to simplify its clothing ranges by removing the Indigo, Collezione and North Coast labels. Mr Rowe has pledged to revive M&S' clothing by improving ranges and availability, cutting prices and reducing promotions. But his plan, outlined in May, came with a warning of a short-term dent to sales and profit.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'M&S to shut 80 stores; those in S'pore not affected'. Print Edition | Subscribe