Jul 19, 2020
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M&S 'to cut 100s of jobs' soon, more roles to go later this year - report

Jul 19, 2020

M&S could become the latest UK retailer to announce a swathe of job cuts if a weekend news report is accurate. The retail giant could unveil plans for hundreds of redundancies within the next few days, although “several thousand” roles could be lost in the months ahead.

M&S could be about to announce a number of job cuts - Photo: Sandra Halliday

That’s according to Sky News, which has a good record on accurately predicting British retail news.

M&S hasn’t commented on the report apart from saying that its staff would be the first to be told of any plans. But if it’s true, the firm is the latest in a long list of retail businesses to restructure as a result of the pandemic and its after-effects. 

The company has been in turnaround mode for some time and CEO Steve Rowe will reportedly “accelerate” the ongoing restructuring at M&S.

And “accelerate” is probably a good word to use as some of the jobs currently being shed across the industry may well have been lost, eventually, even without the pandemic due to changing shopping habits and particularly the further growth of online spending.

But while retailers knew a time was coming when fewer in-store roles would be needed, they hadn’t been expecting it this year. And they hadn’t expected the need to reduce HQ roles so soon too. But that has happened as urgent cost savings have been required to cope with the loss of revenue both during the lockdown and beyond it. Sky News didn't say which business areas the M&S job cuts would cover, although we might assume that clothing and home is likely to be more vulnerable than foods.

M&S has been able to keep many stores open during the lockdown due to its food operations, but earlier in the year, it said it hadn’t benefited as much from panic-buying or from the focus on essentials as other supermarkets due to its more premium positioning. And of course, sales of its clothing and home offer have moved slowly over the last few months.

The company furloughed ‘only’ 27,000 out of its 78,000 employees during lockdown and many have now returned to work, although it’s unclear exactly how many.

M&S is now in a difficult position PR-wise. It accepted government cash to furlough staff but is now supposedly now planning to cut jobs. This could make it difficult for it to accept further grant money (such as the £1,000-per-employee bonus grant to keep staff employed until January) without it coming in for criticism.

That scheme has been criticised by some analysts and politicians who said it would be paying companies money to retain roles they would have kept anyway. And with businesses very conscious of how their customers expect them to do the right thing in challenging times, a number of big names have already said they won’t accept the cash, with Primark and John Lewis prominent on that list.

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