M&S to open 20 new UK stores and create 3,400 jobs

Marks and Spencer will open 20 new stores this year and create 3,400 jobs as part of a £480mn investment across the UK as it recovers from the pandemic.

The retailer announced an acceleration of its restructuring programme of closing 110 stores, refitting others and opening “bigger, better” food sites, as it competes for higher-income shoppers.

Overall it plans to reduce the number of full stores offering food, clothing and home sales from 247 to 180 by 2026, and increase its Simply Food outlets by 104 to 420.

The retailer will open 12 food halls and eight “full line destination stores” including in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester in 2023. Five of the new bigger stores, including in the Trafford Centre and Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre will occupy sites previously used by the now-defunct department store Debenhams, which M&S said was part of its investment to regenerate vacant sites.

“The outperformance of our recently relocated and renewed stores, give us the confidence to go faster in our plan”, said M&S chief executive Stuart Machin. “Our investment in stores not only delivers a better experience for customers and colleagues, it boosts local communities with new job creation.”

M&S said its latest store openings would create 3,400 jobs, out of a total headcount of 66,000. In 2020 the retailer announced it would cut 7,000 jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme during the pandemic.

M&S added that it was making “substantial investment in new digital services”. This will include extending click-and-collect services to another 130 stores across the UK. In its latest trading update, the retailer said it had 5mn active users of its app.

The retailer’s delivery partnership with Ocado has struggled since pandemic restrictions were lifted and shoppers have returned to stores. In its half-year statement M&S said the service recorded a loss of £700,000, down from a profit of £28.1mn in the same period the year before.

M&S’s share of the UK clothing market reached its highest level in almost eight years and its food division increased its market share due to a strong Christmas trading period.

Clothing and home sales grew 8.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 8.8 per cent in total during the 13 weeks to December 31, well above the 4.5 per cent forecast by Deutsche Bank analysts.

M&S’s share price rose 2 per cent to 149p a share in midday trading on Monday. It remains down 42 per cent on its post-pandemic high in January 2022.


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