Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland stores not expected to be affected by M&S closures

By Jonny Bell

Local Marks & Spencer stores are expected to escape the axe when the retailer announces a major overhaul next week.

Reports surfaced yesterday that the company was gearing up to shut dozens of its high street branches and phase out clothing sales at select locations as part of a massive revamp.

Chief executive Steve Rowe, who took over from Dutch businessman Marc Bolland in April, is expected to announce a significant reorganisation of the company's UK portfolio next week, according to Sky News.

The number of stores affected is said to be "in the low dozens", and the closures will take place over a number of years.

Some of the retailer's clothing branches will also be replaced by its more successful food outlets.

M&S did not provide a statement, explaining that it would not comment on "rumours or speculation".

While an official announcement is expected next week,the Belfast Telegraph understands that branches here will not be affected by the news.

Marks & Spencer has eight Simply Food stores in Northern Ireland, and 10 larger locations selling food and other lines.

New chief executive Mr Rowe has sought to reorganise the company since being appointed, announcing plans in August to axe 525 jobs at the firm's head office in a bid to cut costs.

The company said the staff reduction would result in significant savings, amounting to about 1% of its UK operating costs per year, although costs were still expected to rise by approximately 3.5% this year.

Mr Rowe later embarked on an extensive overhaul of staff pay in an effort to mitigate the impact of the new national living wage.

M&S is forecast to report a difficult second quarter for its beleaguered clothing arm next week. Analysts have predicted a 3.9% drop in like-for-like sales for the general merchandising division after clothing sales plummeted 8.9% in the first three months of the year - the worst sales performance for more than a decade.

Mr Rowe is also expected to announce a shake-up of the retailer's international operations next week.

Belfast Telegraph