July 20, 2020 / 10:57 AM / 14 days ago

M&S to shed 950 jobs in latest blow to UK retail sector

FILE PHOTO: An entrance to a Marks and Spencer store is pictured at the Oxford Street, in London, Britain July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - British retailer Marks & Spencer plans to cut 950 jobs as part of a store management revamp, dealing a further blow to a sector ravaged by the COVID-19 crisis.

Already this month, health and beauty chain Boots and department store group John Lewis have said they will likely shed over 5,000 jobs between them after the pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping.

Britain’s retailers were already struggling with high rents, business taxes, tight margins and preparations for Brexit even before they were hammered by the coronavirus lockdown.

Marks & Spencer (M&S), which has a UK workforce of 78,000, said on Monday it had started a consultation with its employee representative group and set out its intention to first offer voluntary redundancy to affected workers across central support functions, central operations and property and store management.

Shares in M&S were down 1% at 1145 GMT, extending 2020 losses to 54%.

The 136-year old group has been seeking to reinvent itself anew after a decade of failed revivals.

M&S said in May the pandemic would indelibly change its business and that it would accelerate its latest turnaround effort, which included cost cuts and store closures. It labelled the programme “Never the Same Again”.

It said the changes announced on Monday would reduce management layers and free up retail teams to focus more on customers.

“Through the crisis we have seen how we can work faster and more flexibly by empowering store teams and it’s essential that we embed that way of working,” said Sacha Berendji, M&S’s director of retail, operations and property.

Reporting by James Davey; editing by Paul Sandle and Mark Potter

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