M&S on track to open 200 more Simply Food branches

Marks & Spencer is to increase its presence in high street drinks retailing by ploughing ahead with plans to open 200 new Simply Food stores.

The company is shifting emphasis in its estate in the wake of falling sales in clothing and homeware and has announced a number of closures in this area.

But it said existing plans to increase its number of dedicated food shops – which include a BWS range – would be unaffected by the closure programe.

It aims to have the new Simply Food stores on stream by the end of its 2018/19 financial year.

There will be a net reduction of 60 combined clothing, home and food branches – what it calls full line stores – through a combination of 30 closures, 45 conversions to the Simply Food format, a number of relocations and new full line stores in areas where it is under-represented.

M&S also plans to reduce head office headcount by around 525.

The group reported a 0.9% increase in revenue in the half-year to October 1 with underlying pre-tax profits down 18%.

Food sales were up 4% but revenue from clothing fell 5.3%.

Sales from recently-opened Simply Food stores were 17% ahead of forecasts.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “In the future, we will have more inspiring stores in places where customers want to shop.

“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.”