STAFF and customers are waiting to learn which Marks and Spencer stores are facing the axe as the business prepares to shut another 110 stores.

M&S has said it will close another 85 “full-line” stores and around 25 Simply Food outlets – on top of the closure programme which has already claimed its Fareham Shopping Centre branch.

The chain posted a 10 per cent drop in annual profits yesterday as it revealed its latest overhaul.

It said it was focusing on larger Simply Food shops with parking, which would mean shutting and relocating smaller, less busy outlets.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “Our strategy is as much about right sizing, relocating and new openings as it is about closures. Our overall numbers of stores will remain broadly level.”

Jeff Bray, senior lecturer in marketing and retail management, at Bournemouth University, said large M&S branches in shopping centres – such as those at West Quay and Hedge End – were likely to be safe.

“The landlords will be keen to keep those anchor stores in place,” he said.

He said M&S remained a “big draw” at big shopping centres, but other regional stores could be vulnerable.

Fareham Shopping Centre’s M&S closed last year after more than 40 years of trading.

Other local M&S branches include those at Winchester and Gosport, Simply Food outlets at Southampton Hospital and Lymington, and a Foodhall at Eastleigh.

Dr Bray said it was “incredibly difficult” to predict which branches would close, without access to information about leases and rents.

“Occasionally, we’ll have an inkling of those stores that are a little bit more run down and that might be an indicator of the lease length, because you’re not going to refurbish a store whose lease is going to expire in a couple of years – but really it would only be guesswork until they release a list of stores,” he said.

But he said M&S had underlying problems in reaching younger customers.

“It was in 1999 that M&S started to struggle. I think the problem is more one of their brand and their reputation,” he said.

“They aren’t regarded as being a fashion-led retailer. When they launch more fashionable products, it doesn’t attract a younger customer. It just means my grandma looks better.

“They might be more successful starting another company with another brand taking over space in their stores, but with appeal to a younger customer.”

Steve Rowe said: “Whilst there are green shoots, we have not been consistent in our delivery in a number of areas of the business. M&S is changing faster than at any time in my career – substantial changes across the business to our processes, ranges and operations – and this has constrained this year’s performance, particularly in clothing and home.

“However, we remain on track with our transformation and are now well on the road to making M&S special again.”

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