M&S to close Simply Food stores in cost-cutting move

LONDON - Marks and Spencer is to shut 27 of its Simply Food stores, with the loss of around 780 jobs as part of a plan to reduce operating costs by up to £200m.

M&S said 25 of these stores are small underperforming shops and two are small main chain stores.

As part of its cost reduction plan, M&S also plans to shed up to 450 jobs across all functions at its head offices and cap employees' annual increases in pensionable pay to 1%.

The total number of jobs cut by the company could reach 1,230, more than the 1,000 predicted yesterday by newspaper reports.

Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of M&S said: "We are aware that the proposed changes will be difficult for those members of staff impacted, but given that we expect challenging economic conditions to continue for at least the next 12 months we believe we are taking the right action to maintain the strength of our business."

The changes by the retailer come on the back of poor trading over the Christmas period.

In the 13 weeks to December 27, group sales at M&S were down 1.2% and UK sales were down 3.4%.

On a like for like basis, UK sales dropped 7.1%, which included an 8.9% fall in general merchandise sales and a 5.2% fall in food sales.

Despite these falls, M&S managed to score its biggest trading day for food to date on December 23, with record sales of over £50m.

Fellow retailers Debenhams and Next both reported a decline in underlying sales over the Christmas period yesterday.

Next's like-for-like sales dropped 7% in the six months to Christmas Eve and Debenhams' like-for-like sales for the past 12 weeks fell 3.6%.