Britain's M&S targets rapid change after latest profit drop

A Marks and Spencer label is seen on an item of men's clothing in London

British department store retailer Marks & Spencer will close a further 40 stores in its home market as it struggles to improve its bottom line.

Marks & Spencer said in a statement this morning that its profit before tax had slumped 62.1 percent to £66.8 million in the 52 weeks ended March 31.

On an adjusted basis, with costs stripped out, pre-tax profit fell 5.4% to £580.9 million.

In a section entitled "Facing Facts", M&S CEO Steve Rowe said: "At our half year results we set out a hard-headed diagnosis of the headwinds faced by M&S and the change which is needed". Actions taken under the plan include the sale and franchise of the firm's retail business in Hong Kong and Macau.

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"These changes come with short term costs which are reflected in today's results", he added.

M&S said that although online sales are growing, its online capability is "behind the best of our competitors and our website is too slow".

"The starting to make decisions that have arguably been needed for many years", said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black, who has a "hold" stance on M&S.

M&S recently announced the next tranche of United Kingdom stores proposed for closure or set to close as it reshapes its United Kingdom store estate with plans to take at least a third of sales online.

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The London-listed giant has not mentioned the number of people that would be getting jobless owing to this move-however, as per media, many positions (maybe in thousands) are believed to be at clear risk.

Back in 2016, M&S embarked upon a five-year overhaul of its United Kingdom stores amid fierce competition from supermarkets and budget garment chain Primark - and particularly from online giants like Amazon.

Shares in M&S have fallen 26% over the past year and the firm is in danger of being booted out of the FTSE 100 index.

"In the previous year traditional retailers like Marks have faced a flawless storm of rising costs, a constrained consumer, and the relentless growth of online competition", said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf.

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Total UK sales grew 1.8 percent to 9,611.0 million pounds as UK costs were up 1.8 percent during the year due to costs of new space, inflation and channel shift offset by efficiencies and lower incentive costs.

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