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Sunday, 22 October, 2000, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
M & S speeds up revamp
Marks & Spencer
Troubled retailer Marks & Spencer is accelerating the revamp of its key UK stores.

Five redesigned stores are due to open on Monday - to be followed by a further 20 by Christmas.

The group has also revealed plans to trial stand-alone lingerie shops in three European cities, to be branded "msl", standing for M&S Lingerie.

The boutique-sized stores will open in Paris, and the German cities of Hamburg and Duesseldorf. Around 25% of the stock will be underwear made exclusively for msl, and not available in the UK.

Halting decline

A decade ago, M&S was Britain's most profitable retailer, but sales have nose dived in the last two years to the point where it is now considering closing some stores.

The redesign programme is one of a number of initiatives aimed at halting the decline.

The five revamped stores are in Thurrock, Essex, Bluewater in Kent, Milton Keynes, Bucks, Warrington Gemini and Handforth Dean in Cheshire.

Sales in the three stores which have already had a makeover have jumped by an average of 16% since the redesign, the company said, while customer satisfaction has increased by 36%.

To capture the key Christmas market, the group is redesigning a further 15 stores by mid-November.

We may look at closures but it won't be as many as 25 stores

Sainsbury's spokesman
Locations include London's King's Road, Bristol, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leicester and Lisburn, in Northern Ireland.

In addition, M&S is opening three factory outlet stores in November, selling last year or last season's stock.

Sainsbury's closures

Meanwhile, supermarket giant Sainsbury's has denied a report in a Sunday newspaper that it has drawn up a hit list of 25 stores to be closed over the next three years.

The Mail on Sunday said the move would cost up to 7,000 full and part-time jobs.

Sainsbury's told an audience of city analysts on Wednesday that it was starting a comprehensive review of its property estate.

The review is part of plan by chief executive Sir Peter Davis to make 600m in cost savings by 2004.

But the company denied it had already singled out individual poorly-performing stores for closure.

A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "We may look at closures but it won't be as many as 25 stores."

He said many stores would be refurbished and extended.

If stores had to be closed, workers would be offered jobs at other sites, he added.

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See also:

12 Oct 00 | Business
M&S woes grow
03 Oct 00 | Business
M&S shares fall to 10-year low
23 Sep 00 | Business
M&S 'to close 20 stores'
18 Sep 00 | Business
M&S boss stands down
15 Sep 00 | Business
M&S boss 'set' to go
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