M&S set to fine suppliersfor wrong orders

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Marks & Spencer is getting tough with its clothing suppliers, threatening to fine them if they deliver the wrong goods.

Marks & Spencer is getting tough with its clothing suppliers, threatening to fine them if they deliver the wrong goods.

The struggling retailer has written to its major suppliers, including Coats Viyella, Courtaulds Textiles and Dewhirst, warning them of the tough new regime.

M&S says it already has clauses in its existing supplier agreements which enable it to impose fines, but that it had previously chosen not to impose them. It claims that suppliers have been topping up orders with garments of the wrong size or colour, or even the wrong type of garment, in order to make up shortfalls.

M&S denied it had been guilty of sloppy practice before and that it should have cracked down earlier. "I wouldn't say M&S was remiss not to do this before. That was in the past," a spokeswoman said. "We are now looking to the future."

When contacted about the changes, Courtaulds Textiles said it was "not aware" of receiving a letter from M&S and declined to comment further. A Dewhirst spokesman said the company could not comment as all staff, including directors, go home at 1.30pm on Fridays.

Analysts ridiculed M&S's actions. One said: "This tells you more about the way M&S was operating in the past. It is the basis of any garment supply contract that there are certain quality thresholds and that if you fail to meet them there will be penalties. It sounds like M&S is belatedly trying to catch up."

M&S said the crackdown was part of the group's new commitment to being more customer focused. Under its new chairman, Luc Vandevelde, M&S has already started to tailor its clothing offer more closely to each store, depending on its customer base. Before, M&S's bureaucratic approach forced all stores of a certain size to stock the same goods regardless of whether they were in suburban Guildford, or central Glasgow.

M&S said it was not blaming its suppliers for previous practices. "Systems and processes have to change. But they have to change on both sides," the company said.

M&S disappointed the City with a downbeat trading statement at its annual shareholders meeting last week. It is due to unveil one of its new-look stores on Kensington High Street in west London next week, though analysts said this was unlikely to form the basis of a recovery.

Yesterday the shares closed 4p lower at 221.75p.