Marks & Spencer has 20 North East stores supporting around 2,000 jobs

This week, its latest new store will open at The Galleries in Washington, one of four new full-line stores and nine new foodhalls the business is planning.

That is part of a £13 million investment in stores across the North East including The Galleries and the recent renewal of the Newcastle foodhall.

M&S says it now has around 20 owned stores across the North East and six convenience stores – supporting around 2,000 jobs, and across its food business the company works with more than 280 ‘Select Farm’ partners in the region.

Andrew Crooks, regional manager for M&S, told us recently: “We’re really excited to announce our plans to invest in the local area and open a brand new, larger M&S Store at Washington Galleries. This investment in the local area is part of how we’re rotating our store estate to make sure we have the right stores to deliver an excellent shopping experience for our customers.”

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And there could be more sites to come, with the company’s latest full-year results saying: “Investment is planned to increase as attractive new sites are secured, and as renewal performance continues to be robust.

“A more productive store estate is critical to long term growth as performance is constrained by legacy stores that are more expensive to operate and do not demonstrate the M&S brand of today.

“Rotation towards a target estate of 180 full line and 420 Food stores provides significant opportunity to invest and grow in the years ahead.”

Its latest results show Marks & Spencer in its strongest financial health for nearly 30 years as a turnaround pays off with a 58% surge in profits and buoyant sales across its food halls and clothing arm.

Annual underlying pre-tax profits were at £716.4 million, up from £453.3 million the previous year.

Shares jumped more than 7% as the group paid its first full-year dividend since 2019.

Boss Stuart Machin said: “Two years into our plan to ‘reshape for growth’ we can see the beginnings of a new M&S.

“Food and Clothing and Home grew volume and value share ahead of the market and sales increased across stores and online.

“Both businesses have now delivered 12 consecutive quarters of sales growth and this trading momentum gives us wind in our sails, and confidence that our plan is working.”

It notched up an 11.3% hike in like-for-like food sales over the year to March 30, with growth of 5.2% across its clothing and home arm.

But he added that “there remains much work to do”, in particular with its international business, where underlying earnings tumbled 10.8% over the year.

The firm also revealed that it was stripping out further costs, largely in its supply chain, in the face of an £89 million investment in store staff pay.

And the group cautioned that profitability at its Ocado Retail joint venture was “well below the original business plan and expectations”, but that it was working closely with partner Ocado to “reset the business”.

The Northern Echo | Business News