Marks and Spencer Group Plc has experienced slight decline in sales during its first quarter performance for its 2015 to 2016 financial year. According to its first quarter Trading Statement, Marks and Spencer’s general merchandise like-for-like has declined slightly by 0.4%. However, the Belfast Telegraph reports that the said decrease in sales is still less than the 1% decline that the markset had expected. It is also even lesser, when compared to 1.5% decline the unit had experienced last year. Meanwhile, its food sales like-for-like has increased by 0.3%.
As Marks and Spencer Chief Executive Officer Marc Bolland explains, “We continue to make progress against our key priorities. Our Food business did very well in a difficult markset. In General Merchandise, sales were broadly level on last year and we are on track to deliver the planned increase in gross margin. M&S.com performance was very strong, with customers appreciating all the improvements to our website.”
Meanwhile, when it came to the perceived future of general merchandise, the report also stated, “In a challenging and promotional quarter, we continued to focus on improving product quality and style. We remain on track to deliver the improvement in gross margin previously guided.”
Moreover, Bolland had told Mirror that the said decline in sales was due to the cold weather last May, which had a negative impact on Marks and Spencer’s spring and summer collections.
Moreover, The Telegraph has revealed that Marks and Spencer faced rather harsh criticism over their clothing line during the recently held annual shareholders meeting. The meeting’s main critic was reportedly none other than Muriel Conway, a Marks and Spencer designer for about 25 years.
During the meeting, Muriel proclaimed, “I could weep when I see what is in stores. What happened to quality control. I can wear anything from a size 8 to a size 16.” Moreover, she added, “In my day, heads would roll. Not only have you lost your core customers, you have alienated them. We haven’t changed, you have changed.”
At the same time, another shareholder had nothing nice to say about the design of Marks and Spencer clothing when it came to patterns, “Your patterns look like someone has had a bad dream, got out of bed and thrown paint at a canvas.” Aside from that, Mirror reports that one of the shareholders had also referred to the Marks and Spencer clothing designs as “crude, cheap” and prints as “ugly and vulgar.”
Still, Tony Japhet, one of Marks and Spencer’s investors, has said that the loss in clothing sales has more to do with availability than design. Japhet proclaimed it has more to do with “what is not in stores, not what is in stores.” He also added, “You should be more worried about the availability of clothing and do less worrying about what the media thinks about your fashion range.”
Despite the criticism, Marks and Spencer is focusing on the positive as they believe they are making “continued progress.” It’s food business has launched 700 new lines and they plan to open as much as 90 Simply Food stores for the year.
Meanwhile, analyst Clive Black at Shore Capital has told The Telegraph, “How many times has the question been asked – will M&S ever do in clothing what it does in food? That said, the health & beauty, footwear and homewares were livelier and looked to be trading more robustly.”