M&S’ vast portfolio of stores has been described by senior sources as one of the biggest “headaches” facing the company, as it owns more shops than most of its retail rivals.
The retailer is understood to be considering closing its flagship stores in France along with the bulk of its Chinese operations.
Marks & Spencer trumpeted its return to France in 2011 after a 10-year absence by opening its flagship store on the Champs Elysee. But it pays high rents on both this store and another shop near the Eiffel Tower.
Meanwhile the company opened its first shop in China in 2008 but closed five smaller regional shops last year to focus on Shanghai and its online business on the e-commerce websites Tmall and JD.com.
It is understood that M&S is committed to retaining its Hong Kong shops.
The shake-up marks the second part of a highly anticipated turnaround plan by Steve Rowe, who was promoted to the role of chief executive earlier this year. Just two months into his tenure, Mr Row abandoned plans to open a major store in Amsterdam commissioned by his Dutch predecessor Marc Bolland, which analysts had referred to as a “vanity project”.
One top 10 shareholder said that he was supportive of management’s efforts and likened Mr Rowe’s turnaround plan to Morrisons, which has shut a number of stores and restructured the business to put its focus on its core supermarket business.