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M&S job losses signal shift towards flexible working, online and food

Published:  18 August, 2020

M&S has announced it will cull 7,000 members of staff as the company shifts resources towards areas that are expanding, while decreasing resources in the home and clothing departments.

In the latest blow to the high street, the retailer announced the job losses will mainly impact shop assistants working on the shop floor and within the buying divisions of home and clothing, which posted disastrous results in the last quarter.

The cuts, which the retailer said would be mainly voluntary redundancy and early retirement, signal an acceleration of an on-going shift in staff distribution and channel management as the retailer focuses on boosting growing online sales and food departments.

Last year, M&S bought half of Ocado’s retail business for £750m, and is currently in the process replacing Waitrose as its delivery service partner.

It has also closed a number of underperforming stores.

The retailer said operating during the pandemic had showed it could work “more flexibly and productively,” with more staff multi-tasking and moving between food, clothing and home departments.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said the business wanted to “learn from the crisis, accelerate our transformation and deliver a stronger, more agile business in a world in which some customer habits were changed forever".

“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,” he added.

While the job losses are significant – around 10% of the workforce – M&S said it would also be creating new jobs as it invested in its online operations while hiring 350 roles at a new food warehouse in Milton Keynes.

The cuts are believed to be the biggest in the retailer’s 136-year history.