Food can't save M&S as it posts weak results again

Julian Harris
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GBR: Marks and Spencer Holds AGM In London
The long-running retail stalwart has recently seen its fashion sales disappoint (Source: Getty)

High street bellwether Marks and Spencer issued another disappointing set of figures yesterday and warned that sales are unlikely to pick up any time soon.

Shares closed down 0.5 per cent, having been over three per cent down earlier in the day.

M&S warned of tough trading conditions due to fierce competition from online competitors and discounters.

The company's food division, which has providing a silver lining in recent years, suffered a 2.9 per cent drop in like-for-like sales – even worse than City expectations of a two per cent decline.

Underlying clothes sales were down 1.1 per cent.

Commenting on the firm's struggling fashion business, chief executive Steve Rowe said: "We're still buying too many lines, we're too broad and too shallow – the result of that is we've not optimised the sales we could have had."

He added: "We are letting customers down in terms of availability,"

Former McDonald’s exec and Halfords boss Jill McDonald was brought in by Rowe last year, the latest name to try to turnaround the M&S clothing business.

M&S has embarked on a five-year programme of store closures and relocations, aiming to shut 100 stores by 2022 as it slashes its vast and costly estate.

"We're going bloody fast, trust me," Rowe said yesterday, insisting he enjoyed a "first class" working relationship with chairman Archie Norman who was brought in last year in an effort to transform the company.

Veteran City commentator David Buik said after the results: "Much as one admires Archie Norman’s achievements at Asda and more recently at ITV, and hugely respecting that he is very much a ‘hands-on’ chairman, he and Steve Rowe may have left it a little late to make a real recovery."

Buik, who now works for Core Spreads, added: "Cutting 100 outlets and costs is all very well, but it is sales that will make the difference. I am less than convinced that M&S can reclaim its lost ground to competitors."