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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Laura Onita

‘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.

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