Marks & Spencer plans to up the pace of change in response to pandemic

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Marks & Spencer today said it planned up the pace of change in its business as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The retailer says that it will be stepping up its transformation programme and that it is planning a ‘never the same again’ programme – of which it will give more details when it publishes full-year results on May 20. “The crisis has created a very different way of working and rapid learning for the business at all levels,” M&S said in a statement covering its financing today. “At the time of the results presentation we will also outline measures being taken to accelerate the transformation programme and change ways of working permanently under our ‘never the same again’ programme currently being prepared for implementation.”

Marks & Spencer, which is ranked an Elite retailer in RXUK Top500 research, says that it is planning on the basis that clothing and home sales will be “severely constrained” during lockdown and “highly uncertain” after that. While it benefits from having a food business that is due to start selling online in partnership with Ocado from September, for the moment it says food trading has been “adversely affected” by lockdown since its cafés have closed, travel has reduced and some city centre locations have also seen business decline. 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, M&S had been working towards a plan that would see a third of its sales made online – and it planned to close clothing and home store space in line with that. In 2018, it said it planned to close 100 stores by 2022. The plan envisaged fewer but better clothing and home stores that would be both larger and in more convenient locations, offering multichannel services such as click and collect as part of a seamless online experience across all of its channels. Today M&S has 1,035 shops in the UK and 428 internationally. 

The retailer said it had agreed a relaxation of the lending conditions for its existing £1.1bn revolving credit facility and says it has significant levels of credit remaining to call on if required over the next 18 months. It also said it did not plan to pay a dividend during the 2020/21 financial year. 

Image: InternetRetailing Media/Paul Skeldon

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