Marks & Spencer stores in Northern Ireland are likely to be affected as the retail giant announced that some 7,000 jobs are being axed as part of a further shake-up in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, M&S said the cuts would be made across its UK stores, hitting around 12% of its 60,000 shop-based staff, as well as a smaller number of support centre and regional management workers.
Marks & Spencer has around 2,800 staff across 20 stores in Northern Ireland.
The roles are set to go over the next three months as M&S ramps up its overhaul, dubbed ‘never the same again’.
The job losses add to many thousands already announced across the retail sector as the pandemic wreaks havoc on Britain’s high street, with department store chain Debenhams last week announcing another 2,500 staff cuts.
M&S expects a “significant” number of roles will be cut through voluntary departures and early retirement while it said it will also create some jobs through investing further in online warehousing and its new ambient food warehouse.
The group’s latest jobs cull follows 950 jobs job losses announced just last month across store management and head office roles.
But it insisted there were no further updates on stores closures as it ploughs on with an ongoing review of its shop estate.
It comes as M&S revealed total sales in its hard-hit clothing and home arm plunged 29.9% in the eight weeks since shops reopened, with store sales tumbling 47.9% and online sales surging 39.2%.
It said sales declines were improving but that it was “clear that there has been a material shift in trade”.
“Whilst it is too early to predict with precision where a new post-Covid sales mix will settle, we must act now to reflect this change,” it said.
These proposals are an important step in becoming a leaner, faster business set up to serve changing customer needs and we are committed to supporting colleagues through this timeChief executive Steve Rowe
The group said the pandemic had shown staff can work “more flexibly and productively” and are able to multi-task and move between food, clothing and home departments.
Chief executive Steve Rowe added: “As part of our Never the same again programme to embed the positive changes in ways of working through the crisis, we are today announcing proposals to further streamline store operations and management structures.
“These proposals are an important step in becoming a leaner, faster business set up to serve changing customer needs and we are committed to supporting colleagues through this time.”
In May, Mr Rowe revealed plans for his Never the same again restructure overhaul as he warned some shopper habits had “changed forever”.
Its latest trading update showed a mixed performance across stores, with those in newer out-of-town locations almost back to pre-Covid sales levels, but town centre shops and some shopping centres still “heavily impacted” by social distancing.
While clothing and home sales remained steeply lower, it said food sales rose 2.5% in the 13 weeks to August 20 and also 2.5% higher in the 8 weeks since stores reopened.