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Commenting on full year M&S figures released today, Mintel’s Director of Retail Richard Perks said:

“We’ve already had the sales figures, so we knew how bad they were. In the event the profits are no worse than the city was expecting (or had been steered to expect). In fact, much of the profit fall is down to exceptional items, and the decline in underlying profits has been well managed – operating margins are down by 0.2% to 7.4%. But part of that good performance is down to an increase in gross margins – and that is worrying – in simple terms that is a small increase in prices. At a time when the business is talking about improving quality value.”

“The problem is in clothing sales – food held up well and homewares sales actually increased. There are two main footfall drivers at M&S – womenswear and food and it is the womenswear that is the problem.”

“Much was made of the launch of the Autumn Winter ranges – with a return to quality and value for money, but the underlying problem is that the M&S sub-brands have lost their individuality – they are all too similar and there was too little indication with the Autumn Winter launch that the company has done much to correct that. Each brand needs to have its own look, clearly defined target market and its own handwriting – in the way that Per Una used to have.”

“On a more positive note – online sales rose 16.6% and now accounts for 13% of non-food sales. That’s good, but could be a lot better. A good online service is no substitute for having the right merchandise.”

“And Marc Bolland? He has to take responsibility for the current problems. There have been far too many changes in personnel in the clothing business at M&S. He doesn’t have very long left to sort them out.”