According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, M&S has issued 800,000 vouchers offering 20% off clothing, food and homewares this weekend. More than 70,000 staff and thousands of M&S pensioners have been sent a dozen "friends and family" vouchers.
A spokeswoman for M&S said the promotion had been planned for some time and that the retailer had trialled a similar voucher scheme on a regional basis on previous occasions.
However the voucher scheme is likely to prompt fears in the City that M&S is finding trading difficult.
Nick Bubb, analyst at Pali International said the voucher scheme could also have been implemented to soften the blow to staff if M&S opts to reduce or axe staff bonuses. Bubb said: "It may also explain why M&S still seems confident of meeting profit expectations for year end March of just under £1billion: could it be that the staff bonus will be completely cut this year? Stuart Rose has been dropping hints in the press to that effect and it was a big cost (£91 million, just over 10% of the wage bill) last year: we had assumed it would be halved (to circa £47m), but M&S may be even less generous, whilst the cost of voucher promotions is never particularly huge."