Bolland bolstered by latest M&S results

The retailer has had a good first quarter - which should keep shareholders quiet during its AGM today.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The benefits bestowed by the royal wedding for everyone from furniture retailers to pubs have been well-attested – so it seems fitting somehow that Marks and Spencer, another bastion of Britishness, was able to cash into too. The retailer published results today showing that, like everyone else, it reaped the rewards of Wills and Kate’s big day – particularly in its food business, where sales rose by 3.3% as people treated themselves to celebratory posh nibbles. All in all, like-for-like sales grew by 1.7% in the 13 weeks to July, a big improvement on the 0.1% growth during its previous quarter, and a strong showing during what’s clearly been a difficult time for the high street. With a potentially tricky AGM today, CEO Marc Bolland will no doubt have been delighted…

Food sales were actually pretty encouraging; M&S managed to increase its market share from 3.7% to 3.8%, while according to Bolland, both the entry-level and the pricier ends of its range are doing well – a sign, he says, that although customers are wary about spending, they’re still willing to splash out on the occasional treat. But the story was slightly less positive in non-food, where like-for-like sales grew by a measly 0.3%. Although at least that was an improvement on the 3.9% fall it saw last quarter – and it did manage to increase its market share slightly in clothing, too. Every cloud, and all that…

The company’s trading update included the now-customary warning from Bolland that the retailer remains cautious about the coming months. ‘Against the uncertain economic backdrop, we are focused on trading through the short term while building for the long term growth of the business,’ he said. Although, as the Evening Standard points out, it’s not entirely clear how short this short term will be: ‘retailers have been ‘cautious’ about the outlook for at least three years’, as it (quite rightly) points out.

Nevertheless, the results will at least mean Bolland should be off the hook (slightly) at the company’s AGM today. Apparently, there have been criticisms over his £15m pay deal – but considering M&S is showing some pretty solid signs of recovery, shareholders can’t complain too much. 

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