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M&S steps up clothing store closures and slows Simply Food expansion plans

The retail giant said closures would be taken on a 'store by store basis'. Credit: PA

Marks & Spencer is stepping up plans to close under-performing clothing stores as it battles to turn its fortunes around.

The retail giant said it would further "reshape" the clothing and home arm to focus on the most successful locations, with a renewed drive on online sales.

It will also slow expansion of its Simply Food chain amid "difficult" trading, the group said.

A "significant" cost review will also be launched.

It comes as half-year figures revealed a 5.3% fall in underlying pre-tax profits to £219.1 million for the six months to September 30.

Like-for-like sales improved in its embattled clothing and home arm, down by 0.1% in its second quarter after a 1.2% fall in the previous three months.

Food sales were down 0.1% in the second quarter. Credit: PA

Food sales were down 0.1% in the second quarter, and the group admitted it needed to review prices and ranges.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said the chain's food range was "too complicated and availability is still not good enough".

"The business still has many structural issues to tackle as we embark on the next five years of our transformation, in the context of a very challenging retail and consumer environment," he added.

Credit: PA

Last year, M&S announced that it would shut 30 of its larger UK stores, with a further 45 being downsized or converted to food-only.

It also revealed at the time that 53 international stores that were making a loss would be axed.

To date, it has so far completed six of the 30 announced UK closures.

Mr Rowe did not give details on which further outlets would close or the number of staff impacted, saying they were taking it on a "store by store basis".

But he sought to assure that staff affected would be offered the chance to relocate wherever "feasible".

He said only a handful of employees had chosen to take redundancy so far under the store overhaul.