MARKS & SPENCER is reportedly gearing up to shut dozens of its high street shops and phase out clothing sales at select stores as part of a major overhaul.

Chief executive Steve Rowe is expected to announce a major reorganisation of the company’s UK portfolio next week, according to Sky News.

The number of stores set for closure are said to be “in the low dozens”, and will take place over a number of years. Meanwhile, some of the retailer’s clothing stores will be replaced by its more successful food offerings.

M&S did not provide a statement, adding that it would not comment on “rumours or speculation”.

Last month, the company did nothing to dampen speculation that it is looking to open a Simply Food store in Darlington.

An M&S spokesman confirmed that the brand is looking to increase its offer in the town and said: "We are always looking at new sites to ensure we best serve the local community and Darlington is a town where we are looking to expand our offering."

The store closures would be the latest major shake-up by the new chief executive, after he axed 525 jobs at the retailer’s head office in a bid to cut costs in August.

The company said the staff cuts would result in significant savings, amounting to about one per cent of its UK operating costs per year, though costs were still expected to rise by around 3.5 per cent for 2016.

Mr Rowe later embarked on a major overhaul of staff pay in an effort to mitigate the impact of the National Living Wage.

M&S is forecast to report a difficult second quarter for its beleaguered clothing arm next week.

Analysts are forecasting a 3.9 per cent drop in like-for-like sales from the general merchandising division.