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M&S expected to announce radical store shake-up, new focus on 35-plus women’s fashion

Expect some big announcements from Marks & Spencer on Wednesday. The still-struggling UK retail giant reports its half-year results Wednesday and speculation is rife that there will be news of an aggressive shake-up of its 959-store UK estate alongside demand from its new chairman that womenswear for the 55-plus market is NOT key.

Chief executive Steve Rowe is half way through his “fix, recover and grow” overhaul of the high street giant that could see a futher accelerated expansion of its food empire while taking a more focussed approach to struggling clothing stores.

The arrival of turnaround specialist Archie Norman as chairman is understood to have triggered a deep ­store review and promoted Rowe to take even more radical action amid falling profits, expected to be down more than 10% to end-September, and tough trading conditions on the high street.

Norman, who joined M&S in September, has reportedly told senior staff that too much of the company’s fashion is aimed at the over-55s, according to an internal report seen by the Guardian newspaper. He also reportedly said the retailer needs to cut entry clothing prices and that its offer is less fashionable than high street rival Zara.

He said in the document M&S was “buying too much for the over-55 customer” when it needed to “attract the 35+ customer back”.

Norman also complained that the retailer’s clothing buying cycles were too long and that its infrastructure and IT was “too dated”, which will come as a shock to investors given a multibillion-pound overhaul under the previous management team.

Last November, Rowe set out a five-year turnaround plan for the business, saying 30 of M&S’s more than 300 ‘full-line’ stores – which sell clothing, homewares and food – would close. A further 45 sites would be downsized or converted into food-only stores.

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