Marks & Spencer Group PLC (LON:MKS) has said it will close all of its stores on Boxing Day in an apparent reversal of previous plans to open 200 outlets.
In an announcement on Thursday, the high street retailer said the move was to ensure “as many colleagues as possible can spend time with family and friends” over the Christmas period following news that the government will relax social distancing requirements between December 23 and 27.
The closure will mean M&S will miss out on what is traditionally one of the busiest trading days of the year for the retail sector, however, the company said ahead of Christmas it will be operating its longest ever trading hours with around 400 stores to open until midnight between December 21-23, up from just 15 last year.
The group also said it has introduced a number of new initiatives including Sparks Book & Shop, which allows customers to reserve a shopping slot at a time that suits them, and an accelerated rollout of its check-out free Mobile Pay Go service.
“2020 has been a uniquely challenging year for everyone and this Christmas, the celebrations we have, will be more precious than ever. That’s why in the run up to Christmas we are opening longer hours and have accelerated the launch of new digital services such as Sparks Book & Shop to help our customers prepare, but it’s also why we have taken the decision to close our operations on Boxing Day, so that our colleagues can enjoy more special time with their loved ones”, M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said in a statement.
“This is a big decision, but it is absolutely the right one given the incredible effort everyone has made in the most challenging of circumstances”, he added.
The move comes after the company unveiled plans to cut 7,000 jobs in August and reported its first ever loss earlier this month as the pandemic and lockdown measures battered its sales and closed its stores.
M&S shares fell 2% to 127.6p in mid-morning trading on Friday.