Famed British retailer Marks and Spencer announced Thursday the first group of stores scheduled to close as it begins the shutdown of its Canadian operations.

Stores in Guelph, Ont. and Winnipeg will close at the end of May, followed two weeks later, on June 15, by the company's closure of its only store in Kelowna, B.C. Ten other stores across the country will close June 30.

All 38 Marks and Spencer stores in Canada will close by September 30, 1999.

Marks and Spencer employs about 900 people across the country, including 60 at its head office in Toronto.

Like other department store chains, Marks and Spencer has struggled in recent years as the growth of discount stores and the arrival of "big box" U.S. retailers cut into sales.

In 1998, the retailer's Canadian operations lost nearly $20 million.

The first phase of store closings includes the following stores:

  • Guelph, Stone Road Mall-- May 31
  • Winnipeg, Portage Place-- May 31
  • Kelowna, Orchard Park-- June 15
  • Halifax, Halifax Shopping Centre-- June 30
  • Montreal, Fairview Pointe Claire-- June 30
  • Ottawa, Carlingwood Mall-- June 30
  • Hamilton, Limeridge Mall-- June 30
  • Richmond Hill, Hillcrest Mall-- June 30
  • Markham, Markville Shopping Centre-- June 30
  • Brampton, Shoppers World-- June 30
  • St. Catharines, Pen Centre-- June 30
  • Calgary, Chinook Centre-- June 30
  • Vancouver, Oakridge Centre-- June 30