M&S to close its Freeport store

UK top 10 clothing market shares 2008 and 2018. Source Global Data Retail Intelligence Centre May 2018

Calum Telford, head of region for East Anglia at Marks & Spencer, said: "Proposing to close M&S Newmarket has been a hard decision".

The firm, which has struggled in recent years aside from its food offering, wants to trim its estate.

The figure of more than 100 closures includes 21 that have already shut and 14 stores newly identified for closure. Alongside relocations, conversions, downsizes and the introduction of concessions, the closures are expected to "radically reshape" the retailer's clothing and home space.

Marks & Spencer retail, operations and property director Sacha Berendji described the closures as not easy, but "vital for the future of M&S". "Where we have closed stores, we are seeing an encouraging number of customers moving to nearby stores".

M&S now has a host of stores across Kent including outlets in Canterbury, Westwood Cross, Ashford, Whitstable, Sittingbourne, Hempstead Valley and Maidstone.

M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said in November 2016 that 30 United Kingdom stores would close before the plans were subsequently scaled-up and accelerated.

It was accelerated a year later when Archie Norman, a retail veteran and former boss of Asda, arrived as chairman.

M&S faces unrelenting competition both in clothing and food on the high street and online, while efforts to revitalise its business are being hampered by an ongoing squeeze on consumers' spending power.

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Marks & Spencer announces further store closures amid tumbling profits
But this business still has a massive task in reviving its fortunes and tomorrow's annual results will be further proof of that. Rowe, an M&S lifer who has been CEO for two years, said M&S was now tackling the structural issues it faces at pace.

The nine remaining stores will enter a consultancy period with 626 impacted employees, who will either be redeployed or made redundant.

Online shopping accounts for 22% of non-food retail sales in the United Kingdom, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Shares in M&S have nearly halved in value since peaking at 594p in 2015.

The chain is to close 100 stores by 2022 as it accelerates a transformation programme.

"In 2018 GlobalData forecasts its shares will be 7.6% in clothing - virtually halving in two decades".

The convenience cuts mean 25 small format food stores will open this year, compared to the 40 previously planned.

HSBC analyst Paul Rossington said: "We have previously argued that focus on convenience/food-to-go and a premium own-label offer afforded M&S a defensible point of differentiation".

The closures, planned to "make M&S special again", come as the company announces a decrease in sales and profits in food, clothing and home product categories.

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