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Bolland defends M&'s poor performance

Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland has defended its newly-launched website after reports of its poor sales performance this morning (July 8) resulted in a barrage of criticism.

Sales on M& dropped 8.1% in the 13 weeks to June 28, with Bolland noting that the website, which relaunched in February, was still “settling in”.

It has suffered teething problems since switching from a platform provided by Amazon to one built in-house, with millions of customers having to re-register.

Bolland this morning defended the move, saying shoppers had responded well to the site’s new, more editorial approach, and added that sales of items featured in the “Editor’s Picks” section were up 60%.

He said it would take time for this to be reflected in the group’s total sales: “You don’t build for a quarterly result; it’s a journey.”

However, director of retail consultants Retail-Remedy James McGregor said: “This is the last quarter that the bedding-in of the new website can be used as an excuse for the poor performance of clothing.

“Clothing at M&S is still very much on the rack and we will need to see strong numbers on a consistent basis to be convinced otherwise.”

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said: “The dotcom fiasco – and that is what it looks like, noting as we do many more complaints than praise for the current proposition – leaves a bitter taste for investors.”

Independent analyst Nick Bubb called M&’s performance “embarrassingly weak” and said womenswear should have returned to growth in the last quarter, given its extra marketing and the recent temperate weather.

General merchandise total sales fell 0.8%, while like-for-likes dropped 1.5%. Within clothing, like-for-likes declined 0.6%, although total sales edged up 0.8%.

Group sales rose 2.3%, although in the UK this was a smaller growth of 2% for total sales and 0.3% in like-for-like terms.

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