Advertisement

Marks and Spencer hints at more closures as the retail giant struggles to adapt in a way rivals haven’t

In June last year, Marks and Spencer published its Annual Report for 2017.

The outgoing chairman, Robert Swanell, acknowledged the company faced challenges but he wrote that M&S had "a clear rescue plan," was "well equipped for a digital age” and that he was “beginning to see signs of recovery".

Things have moved on.

A new chairman has arrived and the language he uses to describe the business is very different.

Archie Norman speaks of the need for "unvarnished truth".

He talks of 20 years of "drift" at M&S and the need for "many hard yards" to catch-up.

Hard yards and difficult decision.

Archie Norman speaks of the need for 'unvarnished truth'. Credit: PA

On Tuesday morning, M&S will announce that it is accelerating and intensifying the store closure programme it began in November 2016.

Eighteen stores have already gone, but, in the face of an ongoing fall in sales and profits, the chief executive, Steve Rowe, has decided to take a more aggressive approach.

A further 80 stores will close, putting hundreds more jobs at risk as part of the efficiency drive.

t M&S has struggled to adapt in a way rivals haven’t. Credit: PA

Retail spending has been moving online for the past 20 years.

The direction of travel has been clear for a long time, but M&S has struggled to adapt in a way that its rivals haven’t.

17% of M&S’s clothing and home sales are online. At John Lewis it’s 39%.

In the past year M&S’s stock market value has slumped below £4.8 billion. It’s great rival, Next, is worth £8 billion, even its online-only rival ASOS is worth more.

M&S has ploughed money into "digital", but download speed on its website are painfully slow and it’s state of the art delivery centre at Castle Donnington has struggled to handle orders at peak times.

The business Robert Swannell described in his Chairman’s Statement doesn’t bear much resemblance to the M&S of today.