M&S says annual profits tumble on restructuring

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Of the 100 stores, 21 have already been shut and M&S has now revealed the location of 14 further sites to close.

But M&S's underlying profit was better than the £573mln market forecast, sending its shares 5.7% higher to 308.5p in afternoon trading.

Back in 2016, M&S embarked upon a five-year overhaul of its United Kingdom stores amid fierce competition from supermarkets and budget garment chain Primark - and particularly from online giants like Amazon.

Excluding the charges, profits before tax slipped 5.4 per cent to £580.9 million on revenue that rose slightly to almost £10.7 billion in the year to March 31.

The restructuring was accelerated last past year.

However, M&S improved its gross margin in the clothing and home division for the year by 50 basis points.

On Tuesday M&S said it would close 100 United Kingdom stores by 2022, as it strives to make at least a third of clothing and home sales online.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said the charge was linked to M&S' overhaul plan, which was focused on "restoring the basics" and transforming the firm's culture towards a "a faster, lower cost, more commercial, more digital business".

As of the end of March, the retailer had 1,035 United Kingdom stores, made up of 300 clothing, home and food stores, 696 food-only stores and 39 outlets. "These changes come with short term costs which are reflected in todays results".

"This is vital as we start to leverage the strength of the M&S brand and values across a family of businesses to deliver sustainable, profitable growth in three to five years".

Excluding the restructuring charge, the stores group's adjusted pre-tax profit was down 5.4% to £580.9mln from £613.8mln a year ago, weighed by a 140 basis points drop in the food gross margin as a result of a weaker pound pushing up input cost inflation.

Prior to Wednesday's update, analysts were on average forecasting an underlying pretax profit of 555 million pounds for 2018-19, which would be a third straight year of decline.

Mothercare, well known for maternity and baby products, will be shuttering 50 stores, while youth fashion chain New Look is closing 60 outlets.

And Toys R Us, electricals group Maplin as well as drinks wholesaler Conviviality have all collapsed this year.

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