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Marks & Spencer to keep clothing open during lockdown and plans for extended hours in December

Lauretta Roberts
04 November 2020

Marks & Spencer has confirmed its full-range stores, which house food halls alongside clothing & home, will remain fully open during the month-long non-essential retail lockdown, which comes into force across England tomorrow.

Supermarkets, which also sell clothing and other non-essential items are permitted to keep all departments open, and CEO Steve Rowe says the same applies for M&S stores.

Rowe was speaking after the company revealed its first loss in 94 years as a result of the last lockdown, during which it did take its clothing & home products off sale in physical stores.

“We’re classified as a store that is key because of our food business, and the guidelines say that, while standalone clothing and home stores will be temporarily closed, anywhere where there is food may remain open, and so we’ll continue to serve our customers in the right way, in a safe environment.

“Our stores will remain fully open. The guidance is very clear that those stores that are within essential stores may remain open," he said.

M&S has 260 UK stores that sell both clothing and food, out of a total of around 950 stores. Some 615 sell only food and they are also permitted to open.

The company posted a loss of £87.6m for the 26 weeks to 26 September, with Rowe explaining: “During the first quarter, more than half of our clothing and home business was closed, and we faced extraordinary challenges.

“Despite this, we have delivered a robust performance. While we made a statutory loss during the period, we made an operating profit, which is actually the best way to measure our real performance before ‘one-off’ factors.”

Rowe also confirmed that the retailer was looking to open for extended hours when non-essential retail is due to be permitted to re-open again on 2 December. Primark too, which is being forced to close all of its stores across England, has also said that it will be seeking permission from the Government to extend its trading hours in December.

There has been speculation that the Government will not permit non-essential retail to re-open on 2 December if the COVID-19 infection rate, or R rate, has not fallen below 1. However Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants the lockdown to end on this date to permit some economic activity in the lead-up to Christmas.

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