M&S cuts 950 jobs amid high street exodus
Retailers fear shoppers may never return to stores as online deliverer Hermes rushes to fill 10,500 roles
‘Throughout the crisis we have seen how we can work faster by empowering teams; it’s essential we embed that’
HIGH street stalwart Marks & Spencer has fired the starting gun on a wave of job cuts as fears grow that many customers will never return to the battered high street. M&S announced plans to axe 950 staff on the same day that package delivery firm Hermes launched a huge hiring spree as it scrambles to take advantage of a surge in online shopping.
The clothing and grocery chain is battling to adapt as spooked customers shun bricks and mortar stores in favour of goods bought over the internet. M&S sells just a fifth of its wares online.
In sharp contrast, Hermes is seeking to fill 1,500 new full-time roles in its delivery network and head office, as well as hiring a further 9,000 freelance drivers. The German business is investing £100m in its expansion and has already opened 90 new sub-depots this year alone.
Martijn de Lange, the Hermes chief executive, said the pandemic had lit a rocket under already phenomenal growth in online shopping.
The M&S cuts are the latest blow to the high street after a wave of retailers including John Lewis and Boots announced shop closures and 1,300 and 4,000 job losses respectively.
It came as gloomy figures from Springboard, the data firm, revealed that consumers were still cautious about visiting stores, with footfall 40pc lower than last year.
London is the worst hit area, with visits down 71pc as tourists and office workers shun the capital. M&S is the latest retailer to join other brands – including Sir Philip Green’s Topshop and shirt-seller TM Lewin – in slashing jobs, with thousands of retail roles at risk.
The job cuts are consistent with M&S’s ambition to dramatically restructure in response to coronavirus.
Sacha Berendji, the M&S director of retail, operations and property, said: “Through the crisis we have seen how we can work faster by empowering store teams and it’s essential that we embed that way of working.” M&S has started consultation with its staff and will offer voluntary redundancy to those affected. M&S furloughed about 27,000 of its 78,000 employees and cut its prized dividend as it attempted to preserve cash.
Separately, the US owner of Asda has restarted talks with prospective suitors over the sale of a stake in the grocer. It paused the process when the pandemic hit.
Walmart could still choose to go ahead with a stock market listing.