Beloved British retailer closing 100 stores

Marks & Spencer plans to shut dozens over stores over the coming years and relocate convert and downsize others

Marks & Spencer Group plans to close about one-third of its large United Kingdom stores over the next four years, as the retailer belatedly adapts to the rise of e-commerce.

Marks & Spencer (M&S), one of the best known names in United Kingdom retail, first said it would reduce the amount of store space devoted to clothing and homewares in 2016, shortly after company lifer Steve Rowe became chief executive.

The British retailer says these closures are necessary for the evolvement of the brand with 14 stores to close over the next year.

Making the announcement today, a spokesman said more and more sales were moving online which has contributed to the decision.

The retailer listed the 14 locations - saying its Bayswater store and Fleetwood and Newton Abbot outlets would shut their doors for the final time by the end of July.

Another nine shops have been proposed for closure including Darlington, East Kilbride and Falkirk in Scotland, Kettering, Newmarket, New Mersey Speke, Northampton, Stockton and Walsall.

Marks & Spencer retail, operations and property director Sacha Berendji described the closures as not easy, but "vital for the future of M&S".

The chain now has 300 clothing and home stores in the United Kingdom and just shy of 600 Simply Food outlets - the majority franchise-owned.

Online shopping accounts for 22% of non-food retail sales in the United Kingdom, according to the British Retail Consortium.

They have been seeking to save costs through store closures and shutting distribution centres as part of a wide-ranging efficiency drive as the company's financial performance deteriorates.

Speaking to Extra.ie, a Marks & Spencer spokeswoman said no Irish stores were being closed and refused to speculate on potential future closures. If the stores do close, the employees will be redeployed or offered redeployment before redundancy.

M&S has been losing share for more than two decades after achieving its peak clothing market share of 13.5% in the United Kingdom in 1997.

Maureen Hinton, from analytics firm GlobalData, said M&S was "perilously close" to losing its top spot in the United Kingdom clothing market to Primark.

"In 2018 GlobalData forecasts its shares will be 7.6% in clothing - virtually halving in two decades".

"We've seen a much better retention rate than we expected", M&S said.

M&S has already closed 21 stores in a restructuring programme to reduce space devoted to clothing and home it first outlined in 2016.

The convenience cuts mean 25 small format food stores will open this year, compared to the 40 previously planned.

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