Marks & Spencer CEO Steve Rowe is expected to announce the closure of around 30 stores when he updates the market on the retailer’s performance next week.
Sky News broke the story this afternoon that a number of stores – “in the low dozens” – were expected to be closed as Rowe attempts to convince the City that he is prepared to take tough decisions to reverse the fortunes of M&S, which has struggled to effect a turnaround of its fashion business.
In addition, according to The Guardian, shopfloor space will be reallocated to place a greater emphasis on food, which continues to perform well, over fashion. Any unwanted space may even be offered to other businesses such as restaurants and retailers, the newspaper said. The move is part of a wider straetg to trade from smaller stores.
However while the news may not be good for its full-range stores – shopping centres and town centre stores are expected to take the brunt of the closures which will happen over a number of years – Rowe intends to extend its Simply Food stores and will almost double their number by adding a further 200 in the coming years as part of a previously announced plan.
Previous reports have suggested that international stores are also in Rowe’s sights when it comes to closures; its Paris flagship on the Champs-Elysées is expected to close along with a number of stores in China.
M&S currently operates around 300 full-range stores, 640 food-only outlets (131 of which are larger food halls) and more than 400 international stores.
In July this year Rowe, who took over as CEO three months prior following the departure of Marc Bolland, revealed that M&S had suffered its biggest fall in fashion sales since the 2008 financial crisis posting a drop of 8.9%, which was worse than analysts have feared.
It is not alone in struggling with fashion on the high street. Department store Debenhams has reduced its exposure to fashion and bellwether fashion retailer Next revealed this week that it has suffered a drop in sales of 3.5% in the three months to 31 October.
A combination of unseasonable weather, increasing competition from online outlets and economic uncertainty have all played a part in hitting fashion sales.