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M&S to slash dividend + autumn 09 womenswear preview

Marks & Spencer is expected to slash its dividend when it announces its preliminary full year results tomorrow, upsetting small but loyal private shareholders.

Following six consecutive quarters of sales decline, M&S will have little option but to cut its dividend, according to reports over the weekend. City analysts estimate that the total dividend will be cut to 17.4p, down 23%, 12 months after it was raised 23% to 22.5p.

The M&S board is expected to decide on whether or not to cut the dividend today, but The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph reported that a dividend cut was likely to upset M&S’s loyal private shareholders.

M&S was urged to cut its dividend by broker Investec last week. In a note on the retailer which contained a number of suggestions for change at M&S, analysts Katharine Wynne and David Jeary, said that a dividend cut would send a clear message to the market that management was aware of the pressures on its balance sheet.

M&S is expected to report a full year profits of between £600 million and £620m tomorrow, according to City analysts.

M&S autumn 09 range review

Marks & Spencer has paid closer attention to catwalk trends than in recent seasons for its autumn 09 collection, paying homage to the 1940s and 1980s.

The retailer unveiled its next collection at its press day last week. Key looks at the younger end included animal prints, exaggerated shoulders, all over sequins and sexy proportions. Older shoppers will be served a flattering mix of waist-defining tailoring, below the knee pencil skirts, and heavily textured knitwear.

With its younger, more directional handwriting, Limited Collection will chase a more catwalk-literate customer next season.

A Balmain-inspired pagoda-shouldered tuxedo jacket in a metallic leopard pattern jacquard vied for attention alongside an angular shouldered zebra print mini dress, festooned in iridescent sequins. Fuscia is the season’s key highlight colour injecting a 1980s zing through its inclusion via contrast patent belts and silk-taped hems as well as being used all over a silk dress with a ruched central seam falling through the bottom.

Echoing Lanvin’s autumn 09 presentation in Paris, M&S’ older-pitched Portfolio sub-brand featured belted wrap-front tailoring, alongside kick-flared pencil skirts. The palette played heavily on pillar box red, black and grey with a heavy dose of faux fur adding a sumptuous edge.

Accessories were another autumn highlight. An improved footwear offer includes hidden wedge patent mid-heel shoes with a triangular toe cap and zip-front detail. Elsewhere, leopard print shoe boots appeared alongside studded wide belts and a grey patent peep toe with a contrast lime green hexagonal heel.

What do you think of the M&S autumn 09 womenswear collection? Has the retailer got it right this season? Post your comments in the box below.

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