Marks & Spencer shoppers and staff could be forced to make 30 mile round trips to visit their nearest store after the retailer revealed plans to shut up to 14 shops on high streets and in town centres.
More than 450 employees face losing their job as Marks & Spencer cuts stores as part of its cost-cutting drive to get the business back on track.
The latest closures come just a year after the company announced that it would close around 100 underperforming clothing and home stores or departments as part of a turnaround plan.
Cutting costs: More than 450 employees face losing their job as Marks & Spencer cuts stores
At least another 24 will close outright and 30 others will be relocated. Some 45 will be downsized – taking out clothing and home merchandise.
Yesterday, M&S confirmed that it will close six stores by the end of April, with a further eight closures planned, putting 468 jobs at risk. Customers who want to buy clothing or homeware will be forced to travel between two and 16 miles to visit their nearest store.
Shoppers feared the move was a sign of the times, with many of the outposts facing the axe found in struggling town centres.
A number of high street retailers have also been threatened by what retail analysts have called a fundamental change in our shopping habits with huge numbers now using online.
Shoppers in Bournemouth’s town centre, where M&S is shutting a store more than 90 years after it opened, lamented the loss of the store, heralding it ‘an institution’. Instead they will have to make the journey to the out-of-town retail park.
Margery Grant-Hanlong, 70, from Bournemouth said: ‘It’s really sad to see high streets heading this way.
‘It seems like this is all part of a move to get everyone to do their shopping online, but that’s not the same as actually coming down and feeling the materials and trying things on yourself.’
Some questioned the move, noting that the store on Bournemouth’s Commercial Road appeared to be used frequently.
‘It seems to always be quite busy so I am surprised it is being closed,’ Grant-Hanlong added.
‘But then again you look at other high street shops and they all seem to be struggling, it’s a real shame, particularly as M&S is such an institution.’
Sue Austin, 63, said: ‘I never thought the Bournemouth one would go because it gets quite a lot of use.
‘I’ve got friends who travel to Bournemouth on the bus to use shops like M&S. They will find it much more difficult to get to the out-of-town M&S now using public transport,’ she said.
‘I just hope that the building doesn’t stand empty forever now because of this.’ The closures are part of M&S’s five-year plan to transform the business, which is struggling with falling sales. M&S revealed in November 2016 that it would reduce its clothing and homeware business by 25 per cent.
Part of the plan will slow down the growth of its Simply Food outlets, which will now see 36 new openings over the next six months. Branches in Newry in Northern Ireland and Dover in Kent will be converted to food halls.
Last month M&S said 380 jobs were at risk as it prepared to close its distribution factory in north London and open a new warehouse in Hertfordshire.
Sacha Berendji, director of retail at M&S, said: ‘Stores will always be an integral part of our customer experience, alongside M&S.com, but we have to ensure we have the right offer in the right locations.
‘We don’t want any colleagues to leave M&S … However, we accept in some cases we may have to consider redundancy.
‘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.’