Marks and Spencer commit to loyal Irish customers as it plans to close 60 British stores

Marks and Spencer commit to loyal Irish customers as it plans to close 60 British stores

MARKS AND SPENCER will close 60 of its clothing and home stores in Britain over the next five years, but Ireland’s stores will be protected.

The iconic British retailer is set to divert greater attention towards its food stores, with 200 more Simply Food outlets to be opened in Britain by 2019.

Clothing and home stores here will be the first to bear the brunt of Marks and Spencer’s new focus, but Irish outlets have been spared.

In a statement, M&S said they would be continuing their commitment to owned stores in Ireland.

"We will continue to operate owned businesses in the Republic of Ireland…which are profitable with strong brand awareness, established store estates and loyal customers,” they said.

The commitment to Irish stores contrasts with further announced plans to close 53 stores abroad across 10 international markets.

The reorganisation comes in the wake of an 88 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to £25.1 million in the six months to September.

A fall in clothing and food sales was blamed for the decline, with the latter now prioritised as part of plans for a turnaround.

Despite cutting down on the number of clothing stores it operates, Chief Executive Steve Rowe said that the brand’s total British estate would increase.

“We have now completed a forensic review of our estate both in the UK and in our International markets,” he said. “Over the next five years we will transform our UK estate with 60 fewer Clothing & Home stores, whilst continuing to increase the number of our Simply Food stores.

"In the future, we will have more inspiring stores in places where customers want to shop that complement our growing digital offer.

“Internationally, we propose to cease trading in ten loss making owned markets, but intend to continue to develop our presence through our strong franchise partners.

“These are tough decisions, but vital to building a future M&S that is simpler, more relevant, multi-channel and focused on delivering sustainable returns.”