The boss of Marks & Spencer called for Sunday trading laws to be relaxed after the High Street chain plunged to its first
The boss of Marks & Spencer has called for Sunday trading laws to be relaxed after the High Street chain plunged to its first loss in almost a century.
As it counted the cost of the pandemic, chief executive Steve Rowe said he was ‘lobbying hard’ for an extension to opening hours on Sundays to help retailers.
Marks & Spencer chief exec Steve Rowe said he was ‘lobbying hard’ for an extension to opening hours on Sundays to help retailers
The comments came as M&S reported a loss of £87.6million in the six months to September 26, its first loss since joining the stock market in 1926.
The company made profits of £158.8million in the same period last year.
And in a further blow to the High Street, John Lewis axed 1,500 head office jobs, on top of 1,300 redundancies made when it shut eight stores in July.
The updates underlined the crisis across the country as retailers struggle with Covid and fierce competition online.
Revenues at M&S fell 15.8 per cent to £4.1billion in the first half of the year, as a 40.8 per cent fall in clothing and home sales outweighed a 2.7 per cent rise in its supermarkets.
But shares rose 4.9 per cent, or 4.5p, to 96.5p as bosses welcomed a better performance.
In the last four weeks sales in the clothing and home business were down 21.5 per cent, while revenue in the food division was up 3 per cent.
M&S has been forced to make close to 8,000 staff redundant since the start of the pandemic and press ahead with its plan to close 110 stores.
It is feared the England ‘circuit-breaker’ from today could drag the business back to levels seen during the first lockdown.
Rowe said: ‘Sunday trading should be re-regulated so it’s a normal trading day, that’s really important in December and beyond. We are lobbying quite hard. We’ve already decided to extend operating hours in food.’
Sunday trading rules currently dictate that large shops may open for six consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm. Small shops in England and Wales can open at any time, and there are no restrictions in Scotland.
In its half-year results, M&S said its food division did less well than grocery rivals because many of its outlets are in empty travel locations and it is selling fewer sandwiches to office workers.
But its joint venture with Ocado reported a 47.9 per cent increase in revenue, contributing £38.8million of profit.
Ocado started delivering M&S products from September 1, and bosses are ‘delighted’ with the positive reception. In clothing and home, sales fell by 61.5 per cent between April and June, and by 21.3 per cent between July and September.
The pandemic has led bosses to accelerate a move to become an online-first retailer.
It is investing in its Castle Donington warehouse in preparation for the first ‘digital Christmas’, and it expects 40 per cent of its sales to be online within three years.
Rowe added: ‘In a year when it has become impossible to forecast with any degree of accuracy, our performance has been much more robust than at first seemed possible. But out of adversity comes opportunity and… we have brought forward three years change in one to become a leaner, faster and more digital business.’