M&S revival is at risk as sales falter

Marks & Spencer's recovery is being threatened by sluggish pre-Christmas sales across key lines such as menswear and womenswear, according to internal sales figures.

Sources with access to M&S's confidential sales data have told The Independent on Sunday that the problem is worst in women's fashions, where poorer than expected sales have left the company with too much stock.

The run-up to Christmas is critical for retailers, not only because of increased sales volumes but because of the imminent arrival of spring ranges. If M&S is overladen with stock, it will be forced to discount heavily in the final days of Christmas shopping.

The sales figures, prepared earlier this month for M&S chief executive Roger Holmes and chairman Luc Vandevelde, also reveal problems in menswear. It is understood that sales have been under target for much of October and November. Menswear only met its target this month.

The figures will be of prime concern to Yasmin Yusuf, M&S's creative director, who is credited with the revival in the company's clothing sales.

Unseasonably mild weather is thought partly to blame. Richard Ratner, retail analyst at stockbroker Seymour Pierce, said: "The danger is that time is running out to clear winter clothing from the shelves. After Christmas there's a worry that people will have to discount quite heavily to unload merchandise."

Despite the problems in clothing, M&S figures show that food sales are on track.

M&S refused to comment, saying only that Christmas sales data will not be made public until mid-January. However, the news will disappoint the City. Under Mr Vandevelde and Mr Holmes, M&S had started to show signs of a full recovery after a disastrous 2000.

M&S's shares were the best performers in the FTSE 100 in 2001, and though they have fallen 7 per cent this year, this compares well with the 25.7 per cent fall in the FTSE 100.

Last month M&S announced better-than-expected half-year profits of £285.3m to 28 September. Critically, however, the latest Christmas sales figures cover the period after the results.

As well as mild weather, one of M&S's biggest problems is, ironically, last year's bumper Christmas. Along with most high-street chains, it experienced a large rise in sales, partly due to 9/11 which forced many people to cancel their holidays. Therefore, in the run-up to Christmas, shoppers had more spare cash to spend. David Smith, director of corporate affairs at the British Retail Consortium, said: "Last year was special. This time we will be back to normal circumstances."

Another key barometer on the high street will be the performance of Arcadia and Bhs, controlled by retail tycoon Philip Green. As both are private companies, Mr Green is under no obligation to disclose figures. If sales are good, however, many believe he will publish them anyway. Asked how Christmas trading was going, Mr Green would only say: "It's OK. It's OK."

Research group Verdict predicts consumers will spend £70bn in the last quarter of 2002. This would be a 4.1 per cent rise on last year, but Verdict points out it would still be the lowest rise since 1999. Its chairman, Richard Hyman, said: "The slowdown in retail sales has already begun."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?