The future of the Borders’ only Marks and Spencer food store – and the jobs of its staff – is in doubt following the company’s decision to close 25 more of its shops of that type nationwide.
The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has renewed its call for recognition as the trade union for M&S staff after it was reported today that the company’s chief executive had confirmed the threat of 110 more store closures, following on from 35 already closed as part of the chain’s last round of restructuring.
However, the company has not yet revealed which shops are for the chop, so its sole Borders store, at the Gala Water Retail Park in Galashiels, now faces an uncertain future.
The company has recorded £523.2m underlying pre-tax profits for the year to March 30, but that equates to a 10% drop in profits year on year.
M&S now plans to axe another 85 full-line stores and around 25 of its 700 Simply Food outlets, such as that in Galashiels, on top of the 35 full-line branches closed in 2018-19.
In the company’s report, Steve Rowe, M&S’s chief executive officer, said that performance was not consistent and had been hit by its store closure programme and wide-ranging revamp plan.
Dave Gill, Usdaw’s national officer, said: “The tragic irony of the company claiming store closures and restructuring had hit profitability will not be lost on M&S staff who are all working under the threat of redundancy.
“M&S management are not treating their staff with the dignity and respect they deserve.
“Their piecemeal approach to reorganising the business is extremely distressing for the staff.
“It offers no comfort when a M&S spokesperson was reported saying no decision has been made over which shops will close and that ‘staff will be the first to know’ when the threat of redundancy hangs over every M&S shopworker.
“Usdaw has thousands of members working for Marks and Spencer, and those staff now, more than ever, need the representation and support of an independent trade union; an experienced and knowledgeable trade union interrogating the company’s business case for this store reorganisation.
“We again urge M&S management to abandon their long-held resistance to allowing Usdaw to represent the staff.”
Mr Rowe said: “We are deep into the first phase of our transformation programme and continue to make good progress restoring the basics and fixing many of the legacy issues we face.
“At this stage we are judging ourselves as much by the pace of change as by the trading outcomes, and change will accelerate in the year ahead.
“Whilst there are green shoots, we have not been consistent in our delivery in a number of areas of the business.
“M&S is changing faster than at any time in my career – substantial changes across the business to our processes, ranges and operations – and this has constrained this year’s performance, particularly in clothing and home.
“However, we remain on track with our transformation and are now well on the road to making M&S special again.”
When we contacted M&S today, a spokesperson said the company was not yet willing to say which stores will be closing.
She said: “When we do make an update on the location of the stores to be closed, our colleagues will be the first to know.”
M&S is currently planning to open a small food store just east of Galashiels at Tweedbank as part of a £12m development proposed there also including a 71-bedroom Premier Inn.
It’s one of almost 100 smaller new stores it’s planning to open at the same time as carrying out the 100-plus-store closure programme announced this week.
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