Retail chain Marks & Spencer is to close four stores around the country.

Stores in Mullingar Co Westmeath, Naas in Co Kildare, Tallaght and Dun Laoghaire in Dublin are to close with the total loss of 180 jobs.

The company said the four stores were unprofitable.

The retailer will also close its DHL-run warehouse operation at its Mallusk, Co Antrim distribution centre.

M&S has said it will end warehouse operations on the Hyde Park site at the beginning of next year.

Cross-docking and re-pricing operations at the centre will not be affected however, Marks & Spencer has said that 144 people who work at the centre will be affected by the closure.

A statement from M&S said the four shops will remain closed today and will re-open tomorrow and trade until Saturday August 17.

The decision to close the shops comes after a strategic review and as the retail sector outlook fails to show any improvement. The company said it had to act now to ''protect the long term good of the company''.

“M&S remains fully committed to its Irish business. We have traded here for the last 35 years, employ around 2,800 people and have extraordinarily loyal Irish customers, but the last few years have been very challenging,'' commented Jonathan Glenister, head of M&S Ireland.

''During this time our Republic of Ireland business has been under continuous review and we have made savings and found efficiencies wherever possible,'' he added.

He said the company's first duty is to the affected staff and it is closely engaging with union officials from Mandate and SIPTU about the job losses.

The company has 17 other stores around the country.

M&S Ireland also announced today that it plans to open a new flagship store in Limerick, which is due to open in 2016. The company will also refurbish a number of its existing stores around the country. The Grafton Street shop will be relaunched as the company's regional centre for Ireland.