Marks & Spencer is to close 30 of its stores after tumbling to a £201 million loss

Photo: Reuters M&S said the impact of the pandemic has provided it with a strong opportunity to purchase new locations.

Retail giant Marks & Spencer is set to close more stores after plunging to a hefty loss for the past year after being hit hard by high street lockdowns.

The 30 planned closures will be part of a shake-up of around 110 stores, with 80 of these sites set to merge or relocate - the retailing giant said it plans to open 17 new stores.

The historic retailer tumbled to a £201.2 million pre-tax loss for the year to 27 March after its clothing and home business was particularly hammered by pandemic restrictions. It follows a £67.2 million statutory profit in the previous year.

The group told shareholders that total revenues dropped after this slump offset an improvement in its food operations. It reported that food like-for-like revenues increased by 1.3% over the past year, but the company saw its clothing and home business report a 31.5% slump despite 53.9% online growth.

Clothing and home operations saw a £129.4 million operating loss, although M&S said the performance improved in the second half of the year. These sales have also returned to growth since the reopening of all stores on April 12, M&S said.

Meanwhile, the company said it was buoyed by its food business, which saw 6.9% 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.

Steve Rowe, chief executive at Marks & Spencer, said: “In a year like no other we have delivered a resilient trading performance, thanks in no small part to the extraordinary efforts of our colleagues.

“In addition, by going further and faster in our transformation through the Never the Same Again programme, we moved beyond fixing the basics to forge a reshaped M&S. “The transformation has moved to the next phase.”

The group also said it expects to be hit by between £42 million and £47 million in Brexit costs for the current year, particularly affecting its business in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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