M&S’ UK sales fell 2.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 2.7 per cent in total. International sales too fell, although the large size of drop was mainly due to the sale of its Hong Kong business to its franchise partner and the closure of stores in loss-making markets. Factoring those out, international revenue was down only 1.4 per cent. Reducing consumer confidence, mild weather, Black Friday, and widespread discounting by competitors made November a very challenging trading period for the company.
Improvements to its online proposition and operations helped it to mitigate lower footfall to stores resulting from, in part, the increasing pace of change in the store estate. Women’s wear online growth significantly outperformed, driven by areas including dresses and knitwear. Stock that went into its clearance sale was down around 25 per cent, as a result of a planned reduction in stock levels.
The company is still in the early stages of far-reaching changes in range, style, customer focus and channel mix. Its objective is to reshape its buy, deliver market leading value and focus on stylish and wearable wardrobe must-haves as it grows the business with family-aged customers seeking style, quality and value.