Britain's M&S to accelerate change as profit falls 21%Britain's M&S to accelerate change as profit falls 21%
FILE PHOTO: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Harpenden

LONDON (Reuters) – British retailer Marks & Spencer said it would accelerate its latest turnaround programme as it dealt with the fallout from the coronavirus crisis and a 21% fall in annual profit.

When the pandemic hit, M&S, whose shares are down 66% over the last year, was already in the midst of another attempt at re-invention after more than a decade of failed revivals.

On Wednesday it said its “never the same again” programme would draw on learning from the crisis and capitalise on the opportunities to drive its transformation plan in a changed consumer environment.

M&S said accelerated priorities include a renewed focus on online through its partnership with Ocado, making its food supply chain more efficient, re-engineering its clothing and home business and speeding-up the “reshaping” of its store estate.

Chief Executive Steve Rowe said the pandemic had transformed customer and working habits.

“I am determined to act now to capture this and deliver a renewed, more agile business in a world that will never be the same again,” he said.

M&S said it expected the impact of the crisis to last through the 2020-21 year and that subsequent demand may be depressed.

It has taken measures totalling over 1 billion pounds ($1.22 billion) to deal with the crisis, including 500 million pounds of planned cost reductions and further actions to manage cash. It has also secured liquidity and managed excess clothing stock.

M&S made a pretax profit before one-off items of 403 million pounds in its year to March 28, down from 512 million pounds in 2018-19.

The group said in March it would not pay a final dividend for the 2019-20 year, saving 130 million pounds, and said last month it did not anticipate paying any in 2020-21, saving 210 million pounds.

($1 = 0.8173 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle)