M&S shows its loyalty to struggling high street

Marc Bolland, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, has reaffirmed its commitment to the UK high street at a turbulent time for the sector, as the April bank holidays helped it deliver a solid first quarter.

His reassuring comments came as M&S avoided a bloody nose over pay at its annual meeting yesterday, after investors backed the retailer's remuneration policy. In particular, shareholders supported its award of controversial "golden hellos" to Mr Bolland and Laura Wade-Gery, its head of e-commerce, and the £8.1m goodbye payout to its former chairman Sir Stuart Rose for long-term rewards.

But it was Mr Bolland's comments on the beleaguered UK high street that captured the eye.

He said: "We have at the moment 219 stores on the high street and our stores perform well. We are actually a sort of anchor of the high street so we are planning to invest in the stores. We have a strong belief in the high street."

M&S – which has more than 600 stores in the UK – plans to grow its estate by about 2 per cent this year. It will also, from this autumn, segment its products in a number of pilot stores, based on an area's demographics and affluence, for the first time in its 127-year history.

Mr Bolland's support for the high street followed a string of retailers, including Jane Norman and TJ Hughes, collapsing into administration in the past month. Yesterday, M&S said that market share gains in clothing and food had driven a 1.7 per cent rise in UK like-for-like sales for the quarter to 2 July.

However, while M&S may have fared better than some of its clothing rivals by growing market share by 20 basis points to 11.7 per cent over the 12 weeks to 15 May, according to Kantar Worldpanel, the retail giant's underlying clothing and other general merchandise (GM) sales in the UK were flat in its first quarter.

Indeed, this implies its GM volumes were down and sales by value would have been far worse if M&S had not raised its clothing prices by more than 6 per cent, partly to combat soaring cotton costs.

But Mr Bolland boasted its customers had continued to "buy once and buy well". He also highlighted "innovative" products, such as its Brazilian-cut knickers, of which it sold 500,000 pairs over the quarter.

In food, M&S grew UK like-for-like sales by 3.3 per cent, boosted by strong demand for party food ahead of the April bank holidays and royal wedding.

However, it also helped itself by launching more than 500 new products and a continued focus on its popular "Dine In" food promotions.

Total sales at M&S, which has more than 300 overseas stores in over 40 territories, rose by 3.2 per cent in the quarter.

At its AGM yesterday, M&S's shareholders gave a vote of confidence to its remuneration report, with 97 per cent voting in favour of it.

However, there was a bigger protest vote against the retailer's right to allocate shares to directors under its long-term incentive plan, with 16 per cent refusing to support it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

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

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'