M&S to review all operations as profits slide

Marks and Spencer has said it will review its business model and look to reinvent itself in light of the Covid-19 disruption and a 21% drop in annual profit.
M&S to review all operations as profits slide

Marks and Spencer has said it will review its business model and look to reinvent itself in light of the Covid-19 disruption and a 21% drop in annual profit.

It said the fallout effects from the pandemic will indelibly change its business.

Pre-Covid, the retailer was in the middle of a cost-cutting and store closure turnaround plan. It intends to accelerate that and significantly enhance its online approach to core lines like clothing, houseware and food.

The company warned that life “will never be the same again”.

The company said it will continue replacing ageing stores and accelerate a shift in its relationship with landlords.

M&S has 18 stores in the Republic, but did not comment on any specific plans for its operations here.

"Like any major retailer, we review our business on a continuous basis to ensure we are serving customers in the best possible way," a company spokesperson said.

Pre-tax profit for the year to the end of March fell by 21.2% to £403.1m (€451m) and group revenue was down by nearly 2% at £10.2bn.

However, in the last three weeks online sales grew 20% year-on-year. Also, in the first six weeks of its new financial year M&S has outperformed its initial Covid-19 assumption of a 70% clothing and homeware decline and a 20% hit to food sales through to July.

However, it expects a Covid-19 impact to remain for the duration of its current financial year, up to the end of next March.

M&S’s partnership with online supermarket Ocado, which will see it launch an online food service for the first time in September, provided an opportunity to “turbocharge” the group’s digital capability, M&S’ CEO Steve Rowe said.

“Marks and Spencer did not have its troubles to seek prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, and the crisis has only made matters worse,” said Brewin Dolphin analyst Alasdair Ronald.

“Management appears to acknowledge the seismic changes it now faces, implementing a substantial cost-cutting programme and re-balancing the overall business.

"These moves, combined with greater liquidity headroom, may help stabilise Marks and Spencer through one of the most challenging periods in its history, but there are likely to be more bumps in the road ahead,” he said.

“The better news is in food, where the early indications are that the deal with Ocado Retail is already bearing fruit; albeit, this is tempered by expectations of a £400m fall in revenue," he said.

On a wider note, expectations for second- and third-quarter corporate profits are deteriorating further across Europe, despite a gradual easing across the continent of lockdowns aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

Companies listed on the pan-European Stoxx-600 are now expected to report a decline of 48.4% in second-quarter earnings, down from a drop of 46.7% forecast the week before.

Additional reporting Reuters

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