M&S says it hopes to prevent any job losses as it places almost 500 positions at risk through its latest plans to close unprofitable stores.
The struggling retailer – once the darling of the UK high street – said transformation efforts announced in 2016 to reduce and transform its clothing and home store estate would now see six stores definitely close by April.
The accelerated programme would see stores shut in Birkenhead, Bournemouth, Durham, Fforestfach, Putney and Redditch – with all colleagues moving to other nearby stores, M&S said.
A further eight stores are being proposed for closure.
These were listed as clothing and home operations in Andover, Basildon, Bridlington, Denton (outlet), Falmouth, Fareham, Keighley and Stockport.
M&S said it hoped to redeploy all 468 colleagues affected if they were to shut, with redundancy the last option.
A total of four clothing and home stores have already shut under the five-year scheme as M&S continues efforts to lift sales amid a lukewarm response to its offering over many years – particularly in women’s fashion.
Its food business has proved far more popular though expansion is being reduced within the company’s plan to get a better grip on costs which saw hundreds of other roles placed at risk earlier this month.
M&S said it now plans to open 36 owned and franchise food stores over the next six months – creating 1,200 management and customer assistant roles.
Sacha Berendji, the company’s director of retail, said: “We’re committed to transforming M&S for our customers, colleagues and shareholders.
“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 and we will work with each colleague individually on what is best for them as we endeavour to give everyone a role. 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.”
The shopworkers’ union, Usdaw, accused the company of presiding over more than a year of uncertainty for its floor staff by its refusal to manage its reorganisation in one go.
Its national officer David Gill said: “This salami slicing approach to reorganising the business is extremely distressing for the staff.
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“We again urge M&S management to abandon their long-held resistance to recognising Usdaw as the union to represent its staff.
“We are providing our members with the support and representation they require throughout this difficult time.”