Marks & Spencer today revealed the 27 stores it is closing down after one of its worst ever Christmas trading performances.
Under pressure: M&S chief executive Sir Stuart Rose
The retailer announced it will shut 25 Simply Food stores and two of its smaller M&S outlets and cut more than 1,200 jobs after sales fell by more than seven per cent.
It is the store's biggest collapse since July-September 1999 and was despite heavy price-cutting in the run-up to Christmas.
Traditional branches of the high-street chain in Valley Park, Croydon and Woking, Surrey, will be shut down, although no dates for the closures have yet been given.
The Simply Food outlets also going include branches in Bracknell, Torquay, Imperial Wharf, Harbourside in Bristol, Newtownards, Trowbridge, Letchworth, Huntingdon, Marlborough, Braintree and at the Grafton Centre in Cambridge.
The rest affected are in Caversham, Balham, Palmers Green, Colmore Row in Birmingham, Evesham, Tewkesbury, Whitley Bay, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Biggin Hill, Sudbury, Ripon, Melton Mowbray, Honiton and Market Harborough.
The announcement came as banking giant Barclays revealed it plans to axe 400 jobs and consumer lender Cattles said it was considering cutting 1,000 posts.
At M&S, like-for-like sales, which do not include trade from new stores opened during that time, plunged by 7.1 per cent in the 13 weeks to December 27.
Food as well as fashion sales slumped after shoppers hit by the credit crunch moved to cheaper rivals.
General merchandise trade, which includes clothing, fell 8.9 per cent and food trade fell by 5.2 per cent.
Stores sold nearly 130million items and had 56million customers in the 10 days before Christmas. On December 23 alone its food department took a record £50million.
However, its two 20 per cent off promotional days in November and December to boost trading - ate into the group's margins, which will hit profits this year.
Despite the credit crunch, it also still spent a fortune on hiring big names for its now traditionally lavish Christmas ad campaigns.
For the second year, Take That appeared with regular M&S models Twiggy, Myleene Klass, Lily Cole, Erin O'Connor and Noemie Lenoir.
Former chat show host Michael Parkinson also voiced another television advert for its Christmas food range.
Taking into account the sales slump, analysts expect M&S to report profits of around £620million, more than a third lower than last year's £1billion.
But Chief executive Sir Stuart Rose denied today's update amounted to a profits warning and promised that there would 'almost certainly' be no further store closures.
The retail chief said the group was taking the 'necessary action to keep ourselves lean and mean'.
His role has come under the microscope in recent months as high street sales were squeezed but Sir Stuart insists this would be the wrong time to replace him.
'If this was an aeroplane flying through a storm, the best thing to do is not to nip up the front and change the pilot,' he said.
Shares in the chain actually rose three per cent after the figures were released because they had not been quite as bad as experts had feared.
'The third quarter like-for-like sales are bad... but not quite so bad as we expected, thanks to a late spending surge pre-Christmas,' retail analyst, Nick Bubb, said.
Union leaders, however, were dismayed at the scale of jobs cuts and called for urgent talks with M&S to discuss the redundancies.
John Gorle, national officer of Usdaw, said: 'We are shocked at the severity of the cuts and we were not anticipating store closures. Our members will now be extremely worried.
'The company does not formally recognise trade unions but I hope they will meet with us to have a meaningful dialogue.'
There were rumours that some workers could be laid off quickly but Mr Gorle said he would find it hard to understand why M&S needed to take such swift action.
The retail giant also hopes to save £200milllion through changes to M&S's final salary pension scheme.
They are capping employers' annual increase in pensionable pay and altering early retirement benefits for some workers.
Sir Stuart said: 'We are aware that the proposed changes will be difficult for those members of staff impacted, but, given that we expect challenging economic conditions to continue for at least the next 12 months, we believe we are taking the right action to maintain the strength of our business.'