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M&S pins clothing dip on ‘miserable’ October

Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe has blamed a “very difficult” October for a decline in clothing sales during the third quarter. 

Like-for-like clothing and home sales fell by 2.8% in the 13 weeks to 30 December 2017, while total revenue fell by 1.4%

Rowe told Drapers that he “knows” the retailer would have seen a positive financial quarter overall had October been better, noting the month’s “unseasonable” weather.

“The mixed position we’ve got in clothing is one is a result of a poor October and a good run-up to Christmas,” he said. ”October was pretty miserable.”

He added: “These things happen, and what we didn’t do is change what we’re doing strategically because of that. I’m not going to have a knee-jerk reaction.”

He insisted that forgoing Black Friday was “the right thing to do” as M&S continues its strategy to “restore price integrity”:

“We’ve been keeping our eye on the longer term. I’d like [sales] to be like-for-like positive, but we’re not going to hunt it down,” he said.

“I’m not going to change the tactical behaviour of the business […] what we’ve got to concentrate on is making sure we’ve got the ranges, organisation and operation right.

“I believe we’ve started to make good steps there, and I think it will come through. If it comes through in the next quarter, fantastic. If it doesn’t, I believe we’re making the right steps.”

Speaking about the retailer’s total sales, he said that its strategy is not going to be a “short burner”: “This is a five-year programme, so anyone that thinks there is going to be a result in two minutes is mistaken. We’ve got to build a business for the future and that’s what I intend to do.”

Earlier this week, M&S announced plans to outsource 250 technology roles and place a further 30 into consultation.

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