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M&S hit by sluggish sales

Like-for-like food sales decline at upmarket retailer, with traditional end-of-year spending held back by consumer caution

M&S hit by sluggish sales

Steve Rowe

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Marks & Spencer has blamed tightening consumer budgets for sluggish third-quarter sales.

The upmarket food and clothing retailer reported group sales of £3.2 billion in the 13 weeks to 30 December, a 0.1 per cent decline. UK sales were down 1.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis at £2.9bn, with like-for-like food sales also falling 0.4 per cent to £1.7bn.

Chief executive Steve Rowe described it as a "mixed" quarter, with better Christmas trading in both food and clothing, a time when the retailer traditionally overperforms.

But he also referred to "ongoing underperformance" in food. "In our Food business, ongoing trading pressures continued in the lead up to Christmas as consumer spending and choices reflected tighter budgets," he added. "Price investment before Christmas and a strong performance from seasonal lines helped late trading. As outlined at our interim results, we are making further changes to get the business back on track in the year ahead."

Analyst Richard Lim of Retail Economics said the disappointing results suggested "all is not well on the high street". "Christmas trading was hampered by the continued squeeze on personal finances as five-year highs in inflation eroded spending power," he commented.
“M&S continues to struggle with the sheer pace of structural change reshaping the industry. The business model has come under increasing strain as the unforgiving shift towards online and the experience economy collide with inflexible leases, high rents and excess properties."

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