Britain's M&S says must accelerate change or die

by Reuters
Wednesday, 23 May 2018 06:31 GMT

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LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - Britain's Marks & Spencer said on Wednesday it urgently had to modernise or risk fading away as it reported a second straight decline in annual profit and booked a 321 million pounds ($430 million) charge for a store closure programme.

The 134-year-old M&S faces unrelenting competition from supermarkets, fashion chains like Zara, H&M and Primark, as well as online giant Amazon, while efforts to revitalise its business are being hampered by ongoing pressure on UK consumers' spending power.

M&S reset its strategy in November, two months after retail veteran Archie Norman joined as chairman, detailing a five-year programme of store closures and relocations, and moves to make its misfiring food business more competitive.

On Tuesday M&S said it would close 100 UK stores by 2022, further accelerating the plan as it strives to make at least a third of sales online.

M&S, one of the best known names in British retail, said it made a pretax profit before one-off items of 580.9 million pounds ($778.6 million) in the year to March 31.

That was ahead of analysts' average forecast of 573 million pounds but down from 613.8 million pounds made in 2016-17.

After taking account of adjusted items of 514.1 million pounds, including the charge relating to store closures, pretax profit was 66.8 million pounds, a 62 percent fall.

Turnover was broadly flat at 10.7 billion pounds.

"We have to modernise our business to ensure we are competitive and reignite our culture. Accelerated change is the only option," said M&S.

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

The stock closed Tuesday at 292 pence, valuing the business at 4.7 billion pounds. ($1 = 0.7461 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)

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