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M&S Doors Close as Transformation Plan Accelerates

Marks & Spencer said six stores will close with even more on the bubble.

The U.K.-based retail chain today moved ahead with a reduction in store count under its transformation plan. The six store closures will help the company accomplish its goal of reducing its clothing and home space by 25 percent, which it will achieve through closures, downsizing, relocations and conversion of some locations to grocery stores.

The retailer is also considering shuttering eight additional stores under the plan. The company will attempt to reassign affected employees.

“We’re committed to transforming M&S for our customers, colleagues and shareholders. Stores will always be an integral part of our customer experience, alongside M&S.com, but we have to ensure we have the right offer in the right locations,” said Sacha Berendji, director of retail at Marks & Spencer.

The store closures follow a restructuring of its marketing department which is designed to “ensure that we are faster, more commercial and acutely focused on our customers.” The retailer also outlined plans to make changes to its logistics network that include closing one distribution center in North London and opening a new 495,000-square-foot clothing and home distribution center in Hertfordshire early next year, which will serve 150 stores and employ 500.

The company’s five-year transformation plan was first announced in October 2016. In November, the chain said it would accelerate its activities, which include speeding up the process of rationalizing the clothing and home space, slowing its Simply Food store openings, growing internationally with franchise partners and becoming a digital first company with the goal of having a third of its clothing and home sales take place online. Additionally, Marks & Spencer has set about reducing costs.

Marks & Spencer group revenue slipped by 0.1% to £3.2 billion ($4.5 billion) during the third quarter, ended Dec. 30. Revenue at clothing and home stores specifically fell by 2.3% during the quarter to £1.2 billion ($1.7 billion). Same store sales for clothing and home stores declined by 2.8%.

Though revenue grew during the holidays, the company blamed unseasonable weather in October for undermining performance during the period.

Marks & Spencer operates 1,025 stores, of which 302 include clothing, home and food.