M&S revival plan is surely mission impossible

As reorganisations go, this one's pretty radical.

One tenth of M&S's high street stores are to close, 45 others are being downsized, relocated or rebadged Simply Food.

Separately another 200 Simply Food stores will spring up.

The move is being presented as an attempt to rebalance M&S's high street presence to better reflect our shopping habits.

The new chief executive, Steve Rowe, points out that 17% of the company's sales are now online and tough decisions are necessary.

But there's another issue here - the slow but steady decline in Marks and Spencer's clothing sales.

No one sells more clothes in Britain than M&S, but for the best part of 20 years its share of clothing sales has been falling - from 13.9% of total sales in 1997 to 8.3% in 2016, according to Verdict Retail.

Next (7.4%) and Primark (6.3%) aren't far behind.

A protester holds a sign outside an M&S on Oxford Street. Credit: PA

By removing so much floor space dedicated to clothing, Steve Rowe inevitably runs the risk that the gap will narrow further but he doesn't believe that will happen.

His ambition is to stop the rot and then begin stealing business back from rivals.

Don't bet the farm on him failing.

Rowe worked wonders while he was in charge of M&S's food business but this feat is surely beyond him.

His predecessor, Marc Bolland, had a similar plan, it faltered because the internet offers shoppers an expanding choice of riches.

Rowe has abandoned Bolland's bid to pursue international expansion. 53 stores in 10 countries will close, including the store on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

It reopened to great fanfare in 2011 but was loss-making long before the slump in the pound.