PARIS — Citing major uncertainty in market conditions, Marks & Spencer Tuesday revealed plans to shed 7,000 jobs over the next three months as it seeks to reduce costs, streamline operations and adjust to the shift of consumption to online avenues, a trend accelerated by the coronavirus crisis.
The job cuts will come from the fashion-to-food retailer’s central support operations, regional management and stores in the U.K.
“These proposals are an important step in becoming a leaner, faster business set up to serve changing customer needs and we are committed to supporting colleagues through this time,” the retailer’s chief executive officer Steve Rowe said in a statement. The retailer said it expected a large proportion of the job cuts to come from early retirement and voluntary departures.
Rowe had outlined plans in May to speed up decision-making processes and make greater use of technology in operations.
The retailer said sales of clothing and home goods in the two months ending Aug. 8 — a period when those sections were reopened in stores following an easing of COVID-19 restrictions — were down 29.9 percent.
Food sales over the same period rose 2.5 percent. Group sales overall declined 13.2 percent between May 10, when the company released its annual financial results, and Aug. 8.
Marks & Spencer said the financial performance so far this year has outpaced the expectations expressed in May, but that there remains “substantial uncertainty” about how conditions will evolve and how long social-distancing measures will remain in place.
“We are retaining a cautious approach to planning for the balance of the year,” the company said.
While it is too early to predict what post-COVID-19 consumption will look like, there has been a “material shift in trade,” according to the retailer. Around 68 percent of orders are being delivered to homes, compared to a level of 29 percent the year before, added Marks & Spencer, noting it had increased the capacity of its Castle Donington distribution center.
As for clothing sales, the retailer has seen a significant shift from office and formal attire to leisure and casual clothing.
Employees will multitask, moving between the food department and clothing and home activities, while a “technology package,” developed with Microsoft, will help the company reduce management layers. New jobs will likely be added as the retailer invests in online fulfillment activities and food warehouses.
The restructuring program will result in a financial adjustment in half-year results.