M&S fights for custom amid slump in sales

Retail giant unveils second sale as trade plummets by 19 per cent

Marks & Spencer has suffered a number of calamitous weeks of sales over the past month, putting down an ominous marker for Christmas and hammering home the dire trading conditions on the high street.

The retail giant’s underlying sales on clothing and home related-products are understood to have fallen by about 19 per cent for the week ending last Saturday, 29 November.

The revelation comes as Marks & Spencer today unveils its second sales day in a fortnight, with 20 per cent off all clothing, wine and home products in stores and online.

Its general merchandise like-for-like sales are understood to have fallen by an average of 15 per cent for the past four weeks. However, this figure strips out the week when M&S held its last 20 per cent-off sales day on 20 November – its first pre-Christmas sale since 2004.

Last week’s trading figures at M&S illustrate just how volatile current trading is for many high-street retailers, as they engage in ferocious discounting amid some of the worst trading conditions of the past 30 years.

Nick Bubb, the Pali International analyst, said: “There can be no doubt that M&S is having to do this [20 per cent-off] sale again, as they did in 2004, because trading is so awful. It will pull business forward from next week, but only at the expense of the M&S brand and its long-term pricing power, auguring badly for profits in 2009.”

An M&S spokesman said: “We cannot comment on our trading figures.” However, industry sources said the recent weekly trading figures were being heavily skewed by the one-off sales, which drove huge volumes of sales through M&S’s tills last month.

Sources said customers bring forward or delay large amounts of spending around the one-off sales. Typically, there is a hefty spike in sales that week, but revenues fall off sharply the following week, particularly if customers hear that another sale is coming up. However, M&S, along with other retailers, is thought to have seen a deteriorating sales trend since the UK banking crisis hit consumer confidence like a train in the autumn.

Speaking at the Drapers Fashion Summit on 19 November, M&S’s chairman Sir Stuart Rose said there had been a further marked fall in consumer spending in recent weeks. “There’s been a step-down in the last two to three weeks,” he said. “I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t seen a softening.” A source said the retailer’s poor recent trading was “an economic issue, not an M&S problem”.

While there is no suggestion whatsoever that M&S will post underlying general merchandise sales as dire as 19 per cent down, when it updates the market after Christmas, the City has become increasingly bearish about the high-street bellwether’s financial performance this year. For the 26 weeks ending 27 September, M&S posted UK like-for-likes down 5.7 per cent. It delivered pre-tax profits of £1bn in its last financial year, but some City analyst have subsequently slashed their profit forecasts down to about £640m for this year.

For today’s sale, M&S will open many stores early and extend opening hours until midnight. Sir Stuart said: “Our last one-day Christmas spectacular went down really well with customers. We know that people are feeling the pinch and we want to give them a helping hand in the run-up to Christmas.”

Debenhams kicked off a 20 per cent-off sale yesterday, which is expected to continue over the weekend.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot