Marks & Spencer is to open a raft of “bigger and better” new stores.

M&S is to step up its store opening programme with the launch of 20 new stores, creating 3,400 jobs. 

The retailer told The Times it is to open eight “full-line” stores that offer clothing, homewares and food in the Bullring, Birmingham, and the Trafford Centre, Manchester, as well as retail parks and high streets across the UK.

It also revealed plans to create 12 food halls in Stockport, Barnsley and Largs, and said several full-line stores would be based in former Debenhams sites as part of its pledge to regenerate vacant store units. 

Chief executive Stuart Machin said the plans would bring new store investment to £480m and added: “Stores are a core part of M&S’s omnichannel future and serve as a competitive advantage for how customers want to shop today.”

Machin also said the investment would not only would “deliver a better experience for customers” but also “fits into the levelling-up agenda, with the creation of jobs across the whole of the UK”.

He also told The Times the opening programme was underpinned by a “substantial” investment in new digital services including introducing click and collect at 130 stores and scan-and-shop services. 

Machin said “physical/digital” sales were of equal importance to retailers after the pandemic, which is why he was “pleased the government has not chosen to introduce an online sales tax”. The stores would be designed “with families in mind”, with free parking, “spacious” clothing and home departments and wider aisles.

Over Christmas, Marks & Spencer reported that its food business “outperformed” and it saw “outstanding” results in clothing and home.

M&S said the seasonal results showed its omnichannel strategy was paying off and reaffirmed its full-year profit guidance.

Marks & Spencer food sales rose 10.2% in total and 6.3% like for like in the three months to December 31.

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