M&S Kent stores face uncertain future as retailer plans to close more shops

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Retail giant Marks & Spencer has confirmed it plans further store closures as it looks to rebuild following the damaging impact of the lockdowns.

The firm, which has a number of stores across the county, including key outlets in Thanet, Medway, Canterbury, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, revealed this morning the pandemic had seen it record a loss of £201.2million in the year up to March 27.

The M&S store in Week Street, Maidstone
The M&S store in Week Street, Maidstone

The year before, it had delivered a £67.2m profit.

The chain currently has 254 of what it calls 'full-line' stores - offering clothes, food and other items. It plans to reduce that to 180.

Details of any stores under threat have not yet been revealed.

It will form part of a major reshuffle of its stores which will see some full-line stores switched to its popular Food Halls, some switched from high streets to retail parks or a merger of outlets.

It adds "in around 30 locations which can no longer support a store we will close, recapturing trade in nearby stores or online".

The M&S store at Westwood Cross in Thanet
The M&S store at Westwood Cross in Thanet

Stores in Ashford and Deal were closed in 2019 as part of a previous restructuring of its stores' portfolio.

Revealing the financial figures for the challenging year, store bosses reported food like-for-like revenues increased by 1.3% over the past year, but the company saw its clothing and home business report a 31.5% slump despite 53.9% online growth.

Clothing and home operations saw a £129.4m operating loss, although M&S said the performance improved in the second half of the year.

These sales have also returned to growth since the reopening of all stores on April 12, M&S said.

Steve Rowe, chief executive at Marks & Spencer, 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.

Steve Rowe, M&S CEO, hopes the firm is now on the road to recovery
Steve Rowe, M&S CEO, hopes the firm is now on the road to recovery

“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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