The general consensus among suppliers and retailers is that chief executive Stuart Rose and the company's previous sparkling share price were unfairly hammered when he reported a like-for-like sales decline of 2.2% earlier this week.
Rose defended the chain, pointing out that this Christmas it sold more items than in Christmas 2006 but that these were at lower prices (6% price deflation), hence the decline. This brings us to an interesting industry cross-roads.
I heard an interesting anecdote about an M&S Christmas order yesterday. One item (which shall remain nameless) apparently shifted 400,000 units at £30 in Christmas 2006. However, for Christmas 2007 the supplier was asked to source different materials to help shave the price down to £20 with the promise of a bigger order.
The bigger order never came and M&S sold the same number of items, 400,000, but sacrificed 30% turnover on it.
This supports lots of complaints about price deflation but has caused some people to question whether M&S should be a bit snappier when it comes to pricing.
Similarly the Christmas winners (apart from Primark which seems to go like a train no matter the retail climate) seem to be the fashion retailers operating in the premium or more exclusive markets, generally with a higher price point.
Rose was quite obviously annoyed at comparisons to John Lewis this week claiming the department store serves a smaller group of shoppers. But with an advertising spend and refurbishment costs as high as M&S you do wonder whether the Twiggy factor could justify an extra £5 on the ticket then and there.
However, Rose is completely right when he says he is competing with everyone including Tesco and its value for money men's underpants. What M&S can't afford to do is allow its price/quality equation to get out of step with the market as it was before Rose's arrival.
Let's not forget Rose's incredible achievement at M&S and let's be certain to look at M&S figures in the context of the market and economic slowdown - just look at the trading update for New Look and Jacques Vert yesterday for example. And hands up who can remember the last time Next put out positive like-for-like figures? Yet a decline of over 3% and no return to like-for-like growth in 2008 seems to have been given the benefit of the doubt.
For the full Stuart Rose results interview click here. Also vote on Drapers' M&S poll vote below (see right hand column).