Stuart Rose kept retail pundits guessing this week by refusing to rule out a possible takeover bid for Sainsbury’s.
The Marks & Spencer chief executive told the Retail Week Conference on Wednesday: “It’s an interesting idea - assets like this do not come on the market very often. Shareholders would think you were an idiot if you didn’t take a look at it.”
A straw poll of conference delegates showed 64% thought that M&S buying Sainsbury’s was a bad idea.
Rose said: “I’ve been asking my customers the same thing, especially the women. You do get quite an interesting response. So watch this space.”
But speaking earlier the same day at a fundraising event for the Norwood charity at Claridges in London, Rose had given his strongest indication yet that a marriage between the two businesses was unlikely.
He told that gathering that M&S would grow through evolution, not revolution. But he admitted there was a debate within M&S about its future. “Where should M&S be in 10 years’ time?” he said. “Should it remain a niche player or break through the wall and get bigger?”