Marks & Spencer has plunged to its first ever annual loss and warned that it has speeded up plans to quit dozens of British high streets.
The country’s best known retailer fell £201.2 million into the red “in a year like no other” as it battled a huge slump in clothing sales during the two long lockdowns and rising costs associated with the pandemic.
The company said ageing branches “in declining locations or centres” are likely to be shut as they “cannot justify future investment”.
The number of traditional “full-line” stores selling food, clothing and homeware will fall from a current 254 to “a fully modernised core” of about 180.
More than 100 towns and cities will either see consolidation of multiple M&S stores, conversion to a food only format, or outright withdrawal.
About 30 locations “which can no longer support a store” will lose their M&S altogether in what will be seen as huge blows to local economies.
Trading since the end of the 3 April financial year “has been ahead of the comparable period two years ago.”
Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “In a year like no other we have delivered a resilient trading performance, thanks in no small part to the extraordinary efforts of our colleagues…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.”