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Multinational retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) is cutting 7000 jobs in central support centre, regional management, and in its stores in the UK over the next three months, hoping to cushion the economic blow from COVID-19, according to the company's statement released last week. 

“It's clear that there has been a material shift in trade and while it's too early to predict with precision where a new post-COVID sales mix will settle, we must act now to reflect this change,” M&S said in the release. 

The company, which employs 78,000 people, expects a significant proportion of the job cuts will be through "voluntary departures and early retirement", raising concerns among British labour unions. 

"These proposals are an important step in becoming a leaner, faster business set up to service changing customer needs and we are committed to supporting colleagues through this time," said Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S. 

Conversely, the British retailer specialising in clothing, homewares and food expects to create new jobs as it plans to "invest in online fulfilment, the new ambient food warehouse and reshape its store portfolio over the course of the year."

While in-store sales were "well below" expectations last year, online clothing and homewares sales have surged since the beginning of 2020, with an additional 1.9 million new customers. In addition, in the preceding eight weeks, online sales have represented 41% of the company's total clothing and homeware sales. 

Last month, the company axed 950 job in store management, property, and other head office posts as it needs to accelerate its restructuring.