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Marks & Spencer is set to become the first big retailer in Britain to launch same-day and even half-day clothing nationwide deliveries that would reportedly be faster than its rivals Asos and Next.
Chief executive Steve Rowe’s announcement means shoppers could get school uniforms, cocktail dresses for evening functions and lacy lingerie ordered online and delivered last-minute.
Mr Rowe told the Times the move would show how traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers could use their stores as an advantage in online shopping as the Internet accelerates the death of the high street.
M&S has said it will close 100 of its 1,000 stores, 254 of which sell clothing and food, as it moves high street shops struggling due to lockdown measures and the growth of the Internet to retail parks.
The CEO told the newspaper: ‘People think of the store portfolio as being an albatross around our neck but I don’t think it is, I think we are going to have a multichannel proposition so we can be where our customers want and they can choose how quickly they want it.’
Retail expert Richard Hyman added: ‘M&S has upped its competitive ante, the question is whether faster delivery is an advantage because their challenge is more around the relevance of its product and whether they can gain market share again after so many years of declines.’
M&S will shut dozens of stores after suffering a £201million loss for the past year as it revealed the scale of the financial hit caused by successive lockdowns with clothing and home sales falling by a third.
The move means shoppers could get school uniforms, cocktail dresses for evening functions and lacy lingerie ordered online and delivered last-minute. Pictured: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley modelling in underwear for M&S
A woman walks past a Marks & Spencer store on Oxford Street in London shortly after the first lockdown ended last July
The retailer has already closed or relocated 59 stores but said it is speeding up changes to its portfolio of shops. The 30 closures are part of a shake-up of around 110 stores and the majority of these sites set for relocation.
The group current has 254 full-line stores, which sell food and clothing, but it plans to reduce this to around 180 over the next 10 years, with some of these being replaced by food-only or purely clothing and home sites.
2020 was devastating for the UK retail industry and high street which saw the demise of Topshop and Debenhams, the permanent closure of 16,000 shops and as many as 200,000 jobs lost in the sector.
Clothing and home operations saw a £129.4million operating loss, although M&S said the performance improved in the second half of 2020 and sales have also returned to growth since all stores reopened on April 12.
M&S chief executive Steve Rowe (left) with Ocado boss Tim Steiner (right) as they launched a tie-up in services in 2019
People queue for food orders outside a Marks & Spencer store in Manchester city centre on December 22, 2020
One of the Ocado delivery vans marked in M&S Percy Pig livery in September last year as Ocado marked the arrival of the full M&S Food range to the online supermarket’s website
Huge queues outside an M&S store in Glasgow in 2009 as it celebrated its 125th anniversary with a penny bazaar bonanza
Meanwhile, the company said it was buoyed by its food business, which saw 6.9 per cent growth excluding its hospitality and franchise arms.
It also hailed a strong integration with Ocado after the two companies launched their online grocery joint venture last September. The retailer said its balance sheet is also ‘stronger than expected’ following the impact of the pandemic.
The detail of the figures demonstrates the impact of lockdown, with city centre food sales dropping by a third and in high street shops by 20 per cent. Meanwhile, out of town stores and supermarkets saw increases.
The group also said it expects to be hit by between £42million and £47million in Brexit costs for the current year, particularly affecting its business in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Last November M&S fell to a loss for the first time in its 94 year history after its stores were forced to close during the pandemic. The company fell to a £87.6million pre-tax loss for the 26 weeks to September 26 – free-falling from a success in the corresponding period of 2019.
Hundreds of people converge on the Marks & Spencer store on Oxford Street in 2007 to take advantage of a huge sale
Marks & Spencer was created in Leeds in 1884 when Polish refugee Michael Marks opened his market stall at Kirkgate
Marks & Spencer was created in Leeds in 1884 when Polish refugee Michael Marks opened his market stall. It had its very own slogan based on the cost of items on sale: ‘Don’t ask the price, it’s a penny’.
Ten years later when he went into partnership with Thomas Spencer, the iconic name was born. During the Second World War, 16 M&S stores were destroyed by enemy bombing.
But despite rationing being brought in and supply lines being interrupted, the firm was still able to turn a profit during the turbulent period.
They reacted to the situation by selling food direct to the customer from their delivery trucks when tensions were high, and opening cafes in more than 80 stores as rationing did not apply to restaurants.
They also developed a line of clothing that was nicely designed, but was simple and utilitarian. M&S also encouraged their workers to go out and train to help the war effort.
Staff trained as fire and air raid wardens or set up soup kitchens, while others volunteered in hospitals or fundraised for the war effort.
Simon Marks, M&S Chairman at the time and son of our founder, later helped form the RAF Cadets as many of the brand’s staff served with the RAF during the war.
M&S’s Never The Same Again transformation programme saw it slash 7,000 jobs last August amid hopes it would enable the business to emerge from the crisis in a ‘stronger, leaner and more focused position’.
Source: Daily Mail