Marks & Spencer rests its case: Its performance isn’t bad at all
James Moore is the Independent's Associate Business Editor and writes the Outlook City comment column from Tuesday to Friday. He also has a keen interest in disability issues and when not attempting to further injure himself playing wheelchair basketball.
Wednesday 09 July 2014
Outlook There’s a trick that some defence lawyers like to use: however strong the evidence of the client’s guilt, deny, deny, deny. It doesn’t matter if the bad guy was caught on film with a gun in his hand and a bag labelled “swag” while demanding the teller fill it with cash. He didn’t do it. He didn’t. He didn’t do it!
Marks & Spencer’s chief executive, Marc Bolland, has clearly learnt a thing or two from defence lawyers because he was using a similar tactic with M&S’s trading statement.
Of course it wasn’t quite as blatant as deny, deny, deny. But when you see words such as “improvement” and “progress” liberally peppering a rather rotten performance update then you know what game is afoot.
The case for the prosecution isn’t very difficult to construct. General merchandise sales were down, and while clothing was just about ahead (by 0.1 per cent), that included new stores; without them, it too was down.
The company was finally trumpeting growth in womenswear, and womenswear is what M&S lives or dies by (increasingly, it’s the latter).
But remember, last year’s performance at this stage was dire, and that was following on from a dreadful 2012 when M&S famously blamed the rain for its woes.
This year, everything should have been ripe for a revival, the weather having (more or less) played fair. And yet against that favourable backdrop, and the weak comparatives, the best M&S could manage was 0.1 per cent.
It gets worse. Take food, which has been providing crumbs of comfort for M&S. “A great quarter,” Mr Bolland declared, pointing to headline growth of 4.2 per cent (1.7 per cent when only those stores open a year are included).
Very creditable. Until you read the (very) small print in the trading statement, which said: “Adjusting for impact of later Easter timing, total food sales were +2.6 per cent, like-for-like +0.1 per cent.” So not so great after all. And if the food business is coming off, M&S really is in trouble.
The biggest problem this time around was M&S’s online channel, through which sales tumbled by 8.1 per cent despite a much-heralded relaunch and claims that customers think it’s really, really great. So great, they won’t start buying more through the site until just before the crucial run-up to Christmas.
Given all that, you can understand why Mr Bolland, who’s been at it for nearly four years now, is resorting to the last, desperate, hope of the defence lawyer facing up to an all but unwinnable case. Deny, deny, deny. It’s the only tactic left open to him.
- 1 VMAs 2015: Was Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus' awkward acceptance put-down real or staged?
- 2 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 3 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 4 Chaos breaks out in courtroom as father attacks killer of three-year-old daughter
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
VMAs 2015: Was Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus' awkward acceptance put-down real or staged?
Bank Holiday Monday opening times: Are Tesco, Asda and other supermarkets open today?
The nine most warmongering countries in the world revealed
Isis releases graphic video showing four Shia 'spies' being burned alive in Anbar, Iraq
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...