MARKS and Spencer stores across Hampshire could get the chop, according to figures from a leading retail analyst.

Stores in Fareham, Whiteley, Hedge End and Southampton could close according to Matthew Hopkinson, a director of retail analyst Local Data Company (LDC).

LDC identified 52 towns and cities with M&S stores, some of which have two or three stores that are most likely to bear the brunt of the retailers' sweeping reforms putting more than 60 stores vulnerable.

The company is currently undergoing a major estate reform programme that will see 30 stores close, while 60 will be stripped of their clothing departments.

In total 200 new food-only stores will open, with 34 due to open in the next six months, along with two food, clothing and home stores.

So far in the region, the retailer has named its Commercial Road store in Portsmouth to close and Eastleigh to open this summer, but the retailer has not yet named any further stores set for closure or locations for new openings.

M&S is undertaking the programme after bottom-line profits fell more than 88 per cent from £216 million four years ago to £25.1 million at the end of the 2015-16 financial year.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, said: “Detailed analysis of M&S stores shows one possible area for rationalisation which has resulted from the recent changes to retail parks.

“M&S’s retail park presence has increased by 8 per cent whilst all other formats have seen closures.

“There are 35 towns and cities that have more than two M&S stores either on the high street, in a shopping centre or on the edge of town in a retail park.

“If one removes the large urban centres such as London (27 stores), Glasgow (6) and other cities there are 22 towns where one might question the need for two stores. Are they cannibalising their own stores?”

Currently, the retail giant has 959 UK stores: 304 sell the full range of clothing, homewares and food; 615 are food only; and 40 are outlet stores which sell stock at a discount.

Westquay's owners have simply dismissed the LDC’s claims.

A spokesperson for Westquay Shopping Centre said: “I can confirm that this isn't the case with Westquay, and there isn't any plans to close Marks and Spencer’s down”, while Fareham and Whiteley shopping centres did not comment.

An M&S spokesman said: “We are very disappointed that anyone would choose to speculate in this way.

“This list is not based on any M&S data and we have not published any locations.

"What we have done is outlined plans to improve our store estate over the next five years which include opening 200 new food stores and selling clothing and home from 60 fewer stores.”

They also insisted that there would be more stores in five years’ time than there are today.