U.K.'s Marks & Spencer's To Axe Some Stores in Group Overhaul - Reports

Grocery retailer Marks & Spencer (MAKSY) stock continued to fall Friday amid heavy selling of U.K. and European companies, even after reports its new CEO will announce a wave of store closures next week.

The upmarket grocery retailer will announce store closures, redundancies and other restructuring measures as its new CEO seeks to arrest an endemic decline in profitability - according to multiple media reports, first broadcast by Britain's SKY TV.

The stock was down by 2.4% in mid-afternoon trading, at 343.4 pence ($4.28). It has lost close to 25% of its value during year-to-date.

Officials at M&S declined to comment on the reports when contacted Friday by TheStreet. The company will publish its half-year results on November 8. 

As much as the ongoing rout in the shares could be a mere symptom of angst among stock market investors in general, it could also mean investors are yet to be convinced the retailer is any closer to reaching a turning point - some six months on from the change of leadership that brought CEO Steve Rowe into the boardroom.

M&S, affectionately known as Marks & Sparks in the U.K., has faced growing pressure from investors in recent years as revenue growth failed outpace cost growth and profits plummeted.

Between March 2011 and March 2016 sales grew by 8% to £10.5 billion but pre-tax income fell by some 37%, from £780 million to £488 million. Downward pressure on food prices and increased competition in the grocery market have both played their part. But it is the flailing clothing business (non-food) that is the elephant in the room.

Hidden within the headline numbers is a trend among divisional sales figures that investors have long found disconcerting. Between 2011 and 2016, annual food sales rose from £4.4 billion to £5.5 billion despite a two year long period of food deflation in more recent times. This is while clothing sales fell from £4.2 billion to £3.9 billion during the same time period.

"Customers demand omni-channel retail, so M&S must meet that demand, but online sales are cannibalising store sales to an alarming extent even as total sales of Clothing & Home continue to fall," said Tom Gadsby, an analyst at Liberum Capital in London in a recent client. 

Gadsby predicts that by 2019, Marks & Spencer will have lost a £434 million of clothing sales - net of what it picks up in its on-line channel.

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