Marks & Spencer shareholders are to be offered a discounted gift card instead of a dividend payment under the retailer’s new plans.

The move by Marks & Spencer forms part of an overhaul of the perks the high street retailer offers to its investors.

Registered individual investors will now be able to exchange the cash they receive from their annual dividend payment for an in-store gift card, according to The Mail on Sunday.

The card will be offered at a 10% discount to face-value and be able to hold £1,000. This means that a shareholder could swap a £900 dividend payment for an M&S gift card worth £1,000.

It is understood to be the first time that a major British company has offered to reward its shareholders in such a way. The clothing firm is introducing the ‘M&S Shareholder Card’ scheme with Equiniti, a company which manages shareholder registers. Shoppers will be able to use the card in M&S stores and online, but it will be exclusive to M&S shareholders.

The initiative is being launched on the back of research that found M&S shareholders would like the retailer to do more to link shareholder benefits with shopper perks.

M&S group secretary Amanda Mellor said: “Our private investors are also some of our most loyal customers and we’re continually looking at how we can best engage this important group of stakeholders.

“We’ve listened carefully to their feedback and believe that in the new Equiniti scheme, we’ve identified a simple mechanic that rewards their investment in the company.”