Marks & Spencer has unveiled plans to close up to 14 shops, putting around 500 jobs at risk, as the high street stalwart takes a more ruthless approach to its struggling stores.
M&S said that it would shut six stores in the next three months and is considering shutting eight more, with just under 500 jobs affected.
The high street stalwart said shops in Birkenhead, Bournemouth, Durham, Fforestfach, Putney and Redditch would be closing to “better meet the changing needs of customers”. The eight other stores that might be closed are in Andover, Basildon, Bridlington, Denton, Falmouth, Fareham, Keighley and Stockport.
The closures could affect as many as 468 workers, who are now in consultation. M&S said it would try to offer them roles in other shops before considering redundancy.
The shop closures come as retailers are scrambling to cut costs as they battle rising property and wage bills at the same time as rapidly changing shopping habits which has seen consumers desert the high street in favour of online. Tesco and Sainsbury's announced thousands of job cuts earlier this month while department stores Debenhams and House of Fraser are looking to reduce their space.
Analysts have commented that M&S has not been radical enough in wielding the axe on its store estate. M&S currently has 959 shops in the UK, 615 of which only sell food.
In November, M&S boss Steve Rowe said that he would be accelerating his transformation plan and indicated that he would shut a "minimum" 30 of its larger stores. The retailer also said that it would slow its Simply Food expansion plan as sales in its food division faltered.
M&S said it plans to open 36 owned and franchise Simply Food stores over the next six months, far fewer than the 200 outlets previously slated.
It is understood that rising business rates has already prompted M&S to warn landlords that they need to give rent reductions or face shop closures.
Sacha Berendji, M&S’s retail director, said: “We believe these changes are vital for the future of M&S and we will continue to accelerate the programme, taking tough but necessary decisions, as we focus on making M&S special.”
Turnaround veteran Archie Norman, who joined the retailer last September as chairman, has previously accused M&S of "drifting" for the last 15 years and has put pressure on management to "slaughter sacred cows".
M&S has since struck a deal to offload its Hong Kong stores, outsourced its IT department to Tata Consulting and overhauled its clothing and homewares logistics with a new warehouse. The retailer has already shut 53 of its loss-making international stores.
Earlier this month M&S revealed itself as the worst performing grocer over Christmas by reporting a fourth consecutive slide in quarterly food sales and a further drop in clothing sales following a warm October.