Marks & Spencer closing Canadian stores

Famed British retailer Marks & Spencer announced Wednesday it is shutting down its Canadian operations. The company blamed mounting losses for the closure.

"I am naturally disappointed at this outcome but I believe that it is the right business decision. In the current retail climate, the Canadian subsidiary shows little sign of achieving profitability," said David Stewart, president and chief executive officer of Canadian operations, in a statement.

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

Like other department store chains, Marks & Spencer has struggled in recent years as the growth of discount stores and the arrival of "big box" U.S. retailers cut into sales. Over the last two years the company tried to restructure, cutting costs and reducing the number of stores from 47 to 38.

Stweart said the stores will not all be shut down at the same time, but in groups. Other details concerning the timing of the closures have not been decided.

The company has operated in Canada since 1973, originally under the Marks and Spencer, D'Allaird's and Peoples banners. The Peoples and D'Allaird's chains were sold in 1992 and 1996.

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

Marks and Spencer executives say they want to focus on markets that will actually turn a profit for the company.

The total cost of closure is estimated to be about $60 million.