Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland has said the retailer has the “foundation for the future” but added that he will take a cautious approach to growth.
Speaking to Drapers as M&S reported its 10th consecutive quarter of like-for-like declines in general merchandise – which includes clothing – last week, Bolland declined to say whether the division would grow this year, insisting it was still a “step-by-step approach”.
General merchandise likefor- likes fell 2.1% for the 13 weeks to December 28 but rose 0.5% for the eight weeks to December 24. Total group sales were up 1.8%, boosted by a stronger performance in food.
Bolland said bad weather and a highly promotional market had affected sales, but noted that womenswear had grown market share by 10 basis points.
The retailer saw dress sales rise 110% on last year, following the creation of in-store zones dedicated to the category. Coat sales were up more than 30% for the same reason.
“[Top-line growth] is not the ultimate indicator of success, so we are not saying [when it will happen]. We have been very clear that we are building the foundation for the future,” Bolland said. “We have had years of completely unclear trend-led product in stores – we have finally addressed that and shareholders understand we have to change cautiously.”
However, M&S saw strong online growth over the quarter – in general merchandise it was up 32%, despite still using an old web platform and its new etail distribution hub at Castle Donington in Leicestershire not being at full capacity.
Bolland noted that M&S’s online gains had seen it rise to become the UK’s third largest fashion etailer, taking 7.2% of market share, and he is aiming to take the number two spot.
“Shop Direct is 7.7%, but it hasn’t grown that much. With our new platform and distribution centre I think we will be more competitive and perhaps in the next 12 months we could breeze through.”