Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

More agile and faster M&S needed, says chair

Marks & Spencer needs to be “more commercial, agile and faster” in order to successfully turnaround the business, new chairman Archie Norman has said.

Speaking after the retailer announced a drop in half year profits and like-for-like clothing and home sales Norman said there were “challenges ahead” and the retailer is now focused on accelerating its pace of change.

“I’m conscious that I’m not the first chair to tackle transformation at M&S,” he admitted. 

“The business has been drifting and has been underfilling its promise to consumers for more than 15 years, it’s a long time since its heyday.

“The reason we haven’t been hitting the mark is not because of the people in charge but because we haven’t been able to deliver the pace of change needed. Now is the moment to start doing it.”

Norman said the business has been honest about its shortcomings and what changes need to be made: “The genesis of any turnaround starts with the recognition of unvarnished truth. The reason the business hasn’t succeeded [in turning around] comes from an inability to admit there is failure. We are putting it on the table, there are challenges ahead and we recognise the need to be more commercial, faster and agile.”

He added: “Our objective is to create a profitable, sustainable business and we are inviting the people who work in the business to join us in tackling the issues.”

Chief executive Steve Rowe echoed this sentiment: “Twenty years ago we were one of the world’s leading retailers, I believe we can make M&S special again. When we get it right we are unbeatable, but we need to move faster to keep up, we can’t rest on our laurels.”

Rowe said that over the last 18 months “good progress” had been made in the clothing and home division as he and the M&S team “put out fires”.

Clothing lines have been reduced by 10%, 2,500 prices have been lowered and promotions have been reduced from nine per year to four.

The retailer said it was currently in the first phase of a five year plan. Step one is getting the basics right and reducing costs, step two is becoming a digital first retailer and developing stores of the future and step three is moving a third of sales online and generating a more personal customer journey by using data.

“In order to compete with competitors and deliver sustainable growth we need to tackle legacy costs and build a supply chain that’s fit for purpose,” said Rowe.

“We need to continue the process we have started and accelerate that change.”

On Christmas trading, Rowe said the shopping rush is getting “later every year”: ”The half term holidays fell a bit later this year which hasn’t helped, but all of our top searches online have been for Christmas - shoppers are starting to research. The early reaction to our Christmas ranges has been good but the market is fragile at the moment and the customer is volatile.” 

Rowe also confirmed the retailer would not take part in Black Friday this year: ”We did it three years ago and it sucked business [from us] for the following few weeks. Our shoppers want to trust our prices, they want to know we won’t change them the following week after they buy. It’s the right thing to do.” 

Readers' comments (1)

  • Part of the problem has been MnS trying to fix matters internally. There are businesses who can help if only they’d look.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.