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Marks and Spencer ‘could axe 6,800 shop floor roles’ in major restructure

British retailer Marks and Spencer is preparing to axe almost a tenth of its workforce, as plans for a major restructure of the business are accelerated due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports.

As many as 6,800 customer assistant roles could be scrapped in M&S stores across the UK, as the retail industry continues to struggle in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, say The Sun.

The reports come after the famous high street retailer, which employs around 78,000 people, last month announced plans to cut 950 staff as part of an ongoing restructuring plan which could ultimately see thousands of positions go.

However the business’s transformation plan, named ‘Never the Same Again’ at a meeting in May, could be accelerated due to the impact of the pandemic, which forced Marks and Spencer to close its clothing stores, while its Food Hall sites were allowed to stay open. 

According to the Sun, bosses will consult staff today about the proposals.  However a spokesperson for the retailer said it ‘would not comment on speculation’.

MailOnline reported last month how bosses, under the Never the Same Again’ plan, were looking to make a complete overhaul in the business in the coming months as it adapts to the long-term impact of the pandemic.  

Sources close to the plans told Sky News last month that several thousand jobs were expected to be lost over the coming months as chief executive Steve Rowe pushes through the company’s restructuring programme.

Some 27,000 M&S employees were furloughed under the Government’s job retention scheme, which was designed to prevent mass lay-offs. 

Last month it announced 950 store management and head office jobs were at risk because it needed to accelerate its restructuring.

Further jobs losses are likely come after a review of costs by bosses in different parts of the company such as retail and property, clothing and home, and food and international, it was reported last month.

The reported 6,800 job cut figure dwarfs the 2,500 jobs which will be axed by Debenhams, who announced plans to axe jobs in stores and warehouses in an attempt to cut costs after sales plummeted during the coronavirus lockdown.

The department store is scrapping the roles of sales manager, visual merchandise manager and selling support manager as part of a management restructuring process.

The move, which was first reported by RetailWeek, comes four months after Debenhams collapsed into administration.  

The announcement came after high street retailer Boots announced it was axing 4,000 jobs and closing 48 stores, citing the ‘significant impact’ of Covid-19. 

Meanwhile John Lewis is shutting eight large stores, putting 1,300 employees at risk.

Burger King also announced it would shutter one in ten outlets, jeopardising 1,600 positions.

And around 5,000 employees have gone at Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley, Harveys furniture store, Monsoon, Accessorize and Harrods.

In total, it is believed at least 65,000 jobs are currently at risk across the country. 

The jobs losses come as the retail industry continues to struggle in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

Though shops have been allowed to welcome customers into stores again since June, many millions are still staying away.

Footfall was down 65 per cent in July compared to last year and sales tumbling by 48 per cent over the past three months.

Experts believe as many as 250,000 retail jobs could eventually go as businesses increasingly push towards online shopping.  

Retail expert Richard Hyman told The Sun last month: ‘If you think there are 9.5million people on furlough, 250,000 redundancies is quite a reasonable ­number.

‘Pre-pandemic online sales accounted for 30 per cent of non-food sales.

‘That will rise to 40 per cent, which means hundreds of thousands of job losses.

‘Lockdown has been the catalyst, not the cause. Big firms like John Lewis have needed to shut stores for years.’

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