Marks and Spencer is to close 25 of its Simply Food convenience stores after reporting a drop in sales for the third quarter of 2008.

In its interim management statement released today, the retailer reported that total like-for-like sales were down 7.1% for the quarter while like-for-like food sales were down by 5.2%. As a result, the decision has been made to close the stores with a loss of up to 780 jobs.

“We have reviewed our store portfolio and, subject to consultation with staff, are proposing to close 27 stores  25 of these are small, under-performing Simply Food stores and two are small main chain stores,” said Marks and Spencer chairman Sir Stuart Rose.

In a further attempt to reduce its operating costs by between £175m-£200m over the next two years, the group will also be letting go 450 staff members from its head offices bringing the total job losses to over 1,200.

“We are aware that the proposed changes set out above 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,” added Rose.