Marks & Spencer swung to a loss for the first time in its 94 years as a public company as it warned of “significant uncertainty” ahead due to the pandemic and Brexit (The Telegraph). Marks & Spencer has crashed to its first-ever loss after clothing sales collapsed during the first coronavirus lockdown, with more pain to come as English stores face strict new restrictions (The Guardian). The retailer, which slashed 7,000 jobs in the summer, tells investors it is on track to become fit for the digital world (Sky News).

Bosses at Marks & Spencer have insisted that it will emerge stronger from the pandemic, despite increased costs and redundancies helping to push it to the first loss in its 94-year history as a public company (The Times £). Marks and Spencer plans to keep most of its stores trading during England’s coming lockdown after reporting the first half-year loss in its 136-year history (The Financial Times £). The boss of Marks & Spencer called for Sunday trading laws to be relaxed after the High Street chain plunged to its first los for 94 years (The Daily Mail).

“Unlike its clothes, Marks & Spencer’s rebrand already looks worn,” writes The Telegraph’s Ben Marlow. “M&S’s first loss in 94 years leaves the promise of a turnaround looking like an all-too familiar tale of ‘jam tomorrow’.” (The Telegraph)

M&S may have picked the perfect moment for its online food delivery joint venture with Ocado, writes The Daily Mail’s Ruth Sutherland. (The Daily Mail)

The Guardian’s Nils Pratley writes: “M&S, it is still possible to believe, will be transformed eventually… The Steve Rowe-Archie Norman double-act at the top has injected a greater sense of determination. But, even as M&S says the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change, there is always the sense that the list of things to improve remains long.” (The Guardian)

The FT’s Lombard column writes: “Revenues from flogging socks and frocks matter less and less. Food sales are about three times the size of sales of knickers and knits, and growing. However, margins on food are half or even a third of those earned on apparel. A tie-up with Ocado on food delivery will accelerate grocery growth and increase margins but not to the same levels of profitability of clothing. It will have to sell a mountain of food to make up for ditching party clothes, which historically have made up a quarter of M&S sales.” (The Financial Times £)

John Lewis is to shed another 1,500 jobs at its headquarters in central London as the UK retail group seeks ways to cut £300m of costs and reshape its operations for a more digital era (The Financial Times £, The Daily Mail, Sky News). Another 1,500 jobs are being cut at the John Lewis Partnership in an effort to rebuild its profits while it parts ways with its founding family-connected finance chief (The Times £). Finance director Patrick Lewis to leave after 26 years ‘to seek new opportunities’ (The Guardian). The Partnership is the latest retailer to cut jobs as its department stores go into hibernation for another month (The Telegraph).

A leading private equity investor is close to clinching a takeover of Hovis that will return the bread-maker to British ownership. Endless is in advanced talks to buy Hovis after a bidding war against Newlat Food, an Italian food producer. (Sky News)

The Times pre-empts Sainsbury’s half year results this morning, writing that the supermarket will announce today that it is cutting more than 3,000 jobs as it updates the City on its financial performance. (The Times £)

Ocado has hit back against the prospect of a US investigation into claims that its technology infringed patents, warning that such a probe could harm public health during the Covid-19 pandemic. (The Financial Times £)

The second national lockdown in England is expected to cost non-essential retail outlets £6.8bn, according to research from Retail Economics. (The Telegraph)

Any extension to the four-week English lockdown would be “catastrophic” for struggling retailers who risk losing billions of pounds in Christmas sales, the industry’s trade body has warned. (The Guardian)

Consumers are flocking to shops, restaurants and pubs while retailers have extended opening hours as they seek to bag last-minute sales ahead of England’s lockdown. (The Financial Times £)

The world’s largest consumer goods groups are making slow progress on increasing the amount of recycled plastic in their packaging, despite signing up to targets that aim for significant progress by 2025. (The Financial Times £)

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