COVID-19: M&S to open most stores until midnight in Christmas week

Marks & Spencer is planning to open most of its stores until midnight in the run-up to Christmas to allow shoppers and staff “the time and space they need to social distance”.

M&S said the three days from December 21-23, expected to be its busiest days, would see its “longest ever store opening hours”.

It is not the first time M&S stores have stayed open until midnight but last year the extended hours were limited to 15 sites while this time around 400 – or about two-thirds – of shops will take part.

They will include all food-only stores except those in travel locations, as well as combined clothing and food shops at retail parks.

Shops on high streets and in shopping centres will be generally open until 10pm, M&S said.

Sacha Berendji, the company’s retail, operations and property director, said: “We want our customers to be able to shop with confidence this Christmas, which means supporting social distancing in our stores and minimal queuing outside as the weather gets colder.”

M&S is also calling for Sunday trading hours to be extended “to help us increase our capacity to serve everyone safely this festive season”.

Retailers face a shortened period of trading in the run-up to Christmas with the England-wide lockdown coming in the middle of the “golden quarter” which is considered the most crucial time of year for the sector.

This week, supermarket chain Asda said it was preparing for a “very different” festive period with many customers stocking up early on products such as Christmas trees, festive lights and frozen turkey crowns.

The CBI is calling on the government to give businesses at least seven days’ notice of its plan to exit from the latest lockdown – currently expected to last until 2 December – to allow them to activate supply chains and workers.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday illustrated the pressure on businesses being caused by the prolonged uncertainty, with one in seven companies saying they are at risk of collapse in the next three months.

Earlier this month, M&S reported a half-year loss of £87.6m, blamed on the forced closure of its stores during the crisis – which has also prompted a restructuring resulting in thousands of job cuts.

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