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Marks & Spencer to close 30 stores after slumping to £201m loss

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<p>M&S said sales picked up in the second half of 2020 and have had a further boost since stores re-opened on 12 April</p> (Reuters)

M&S said sales picked up in the second half of 2020 and have had a further boost since stores re-opened on 12 April

(Reuters)

Marks and Spencer has said it plans to close 30 more stores over the next decade after it swung to a £201.2m annual loss as clothing and homeware sales fell sharply in a year of lockdowns.

The retailer has already closed or relocated 59 stores and cut 7,000 jobs. It plans to expand or open 17 sites over the next two years.

M&S hailed the successful launch of an online grocery partnership with Ocado but food sales could not make up for declining sales elsewhere in the business.

The loss for the year to 27 March follows a £67.2m profit in the previous 12 months. Like-for-like revenues increased 1.3 per cent over the year, but clothing and home sales fell 31.5 per cent.

Investors shrugged off the news and sent the retailer's share price up 4 per cent in morning trading.

M&S said sales picked up in the second half of 2020 and have had a further boost since stores re-opened on 12 April. Its food business grew 6.9 per cent excluding its hospitality and franchise arms.

It also hailed a strong integration with Ocado after the two companies launched their online grocery joint venture last September.

The retailer said its balance sheet is also “stronger than expected” following the impact of the pandemic.

Chris Daly, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing said M&S’s bleak results came as no surprise.

“Already on the back foot pre-pandemic due to its limited online offering, this stalwart of the high street needs to swiftly adapt to the consequences of Covid,” he said.

“Investing in its partnership with food delivery giant Ocado strengthened its online food sales offering, enabling customers to easily access quality food without having to leave their homes.”

Mr Daly said chief executive Steve Rowe had yet to deliver similar results with online clothing sales but its new website showed “promising” signs.

Mr Rowe said plans to reshape the company were on track.

“With the right team in place to accelerate change in the trading businesses and build a trajectory for future growth, we now have a clear line of sight on the path to make M&S special again.

“The transformation has moved to the next phase.”

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