M&S: Turnaround of clothing division “behind schedule”

By guest author Elias Jahshan from Retail Gazette

  • M&S tells analysts that the turnaround of its embattled clothing division is “behind schedule”
  • Bosses said significantly more action will be needed to get it back on track
  • The outlook for M&S’s digital and food arms were more positive

Marks & Spencer has told analysts and brokers that “progress is behind schedule” for the turnaround of its embattled clothing and home business.

Speaking at the retail giant’s capital markets day on October 1, 2019, bosses expressed disappointment that significantly more action would be needed in order to bring its ailing clothing and home division back on track.

Amidst the frank assessment of the business though, there were some positive signs in M&S’s digital and food arms.

The retail bellwether’s capital markets day saw it update investors and brokers over the progress of its transformation programme, which has taken place since the start of the year under the leadership of group chief executive Steve Rowe.

Steve Rowe

Rowe said M&S remained focused on “restoring the basics” and would not rush the transformation scheme.

Analysts told news agency PA that bosses said they expect it to take until around 2022 or 2023 before the cultural shift will begin to bear fruit.

M&S communications director Victoria McKenzie Gould said the retailer’s special culture had been lost but said it was working hard to restore it.

Rowe said significant work still needed to take place in the retailer’s clothing and home division, highlighting how hard work in improving products had not been backed up by infrastructure improvements.

He said the retailer has suffered problems with “planning and stock visibility”, resulting in some empty shelves.

M&S also said it was overhauling its menswear collections, reducing the proportion of suits in its menswear stock, to reflect contemporary customers.

Elsewhere, senior management said M&S will boost its food business through the transformation plan by working to lower costs and modernise its supply chain.

In July, Jill McDonald was ousted as the managing director of M&S’s clothing and home division as its underwhelming financial performance persisted under her tenure .

Steve Rowe has since taken charge of the home and division department, but the retailer’s food division continues to be led by Stuart Machin.

Today’s capital markets day comes several days after M&S chairman Archie Norman bolstered his stake in the retailer by buying approximately 55000 M&S shares at around GBP 100000.

M&S have also been trading at their lowest level in several years, although the October 1 meeting saw its shares increase by two percent on the same afternoon.

Norman’s acquisition of the additional shares also comes after M&S was demoted from the FTSE 100 earlier this month.