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Marks & Spencer Cuts 950 Jobs as Thousands More Remain at Risk

Marks & Spencer is slashing nearly a thousand jobs, with more cuts at risk in the months ahead.

The U.K. apparel giant is eliminating 950 jobs, compressing what was a three-year turnaround plan into just 12 months after coronavirus-induced turmoil forced swift bottom-line action. The first round of cuts will hit headquarters and store-management-level employees, though future layoffs could impact more of the reported 78,000-strong workforce.

M&S has reopened many of its stores that temporarily shut down amid the COVID-19 outbreak, though foot traffic remains sluggish. The company’s stores now feature sneeze guards installed by the cash register, and are frequently cleaned and sanitized in addition to requiring employees and shoppers to wear face coverings. Still, unsettling concerns about a viral outbreak still surging in many parts of the world means a full recovery likely remains a long way off.

Over the weekend, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam mandated that people wear face masks in indoor public spaces, warning that further restrictions might be necessary and citing fears that the financial hub could be hit by a third wave of infections in the colder months as the number of infections appears to be spreading out of control.

In the U.K., Marks & Spencer isn’t the only high-street fashion retailer cutting jobs. Earlier this month word surfaced that Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which owns brands including Topshop, would trim between 500 to 2,500 staff members from headquarters. Luxury emporium Harrods is shedding nearly 700 jobs, while John Lewis is closing eight stores of its 50 stores and cutting 1,300 jobs. Over the weekend, reports surfaced that Ted Baker also is looking to cut about 500 jobs by year end.

And then there are the firms that have entered into administration, the U.K. equivalent of a U.S. bankruptcy. Those include Beales, Debenhams, the U.K. arm of Victoria’s Secret, Links of London, fashion chain Quiz, and fashion store Animal.

Back in 2018, M&S CEO Steve Rowe said up to 120 stores would close in 2019. The retailer shuttered 54 last year, with more expected in the months ahead, putting thousands more workers at risk of losing their jobs.

The U.K.’s Centre for Retail Research said that by June 29, 25 percent of the retail stores that had been open before COVID-19 have not yet resumed operations. Through the end of June, job losses totaled 49,790, with store closures at 3,607. The center’s forecast for the year calls for store closures to reach 20,620, and job losses to rise to 235,704.