Monday, 18 March, 2019

Britain's M&S sees profit fall for second straight year

Toby Melville  Reuters Toby Melville Reuters
Sandra Phillips | 23 May, 2018, 17:11

The high street staple's pre-tax profits plunged 62.1pc to £66.8m for the year ending March 2018, largely impacted by£321.1m of costs linked to shutting underperforming shops.

The moves are part of a transformation plan created to modernise the business as it looks to improve its systems and recover lost market share among younger shoppers.

According to reports, M&S will announce which of its 140-strong full-store network will close on Wednesday UK time, adding to the 20 already shuttered. "These, together with a challenging United Kingdom consumer market, mean we have to modernise our business to ensure we are competitive and reignite our culture", stated the retailer. "Accelerated change is the only option", it said.

M&S said its food and non-food supply chains needed "significant upgrades" to speed up service, reduce high clothing stock levels and tackle availability and waste in food. Admitting the business had become top-heavy and too "corporate", M&S has recently separated its Food and Clothing & Home teams.

And its full-year results released today were sobering enough for the company to say in a statement it was "facing facts" and "accelerat [ing] change".

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Chief executive Steve Rowe said the charge was linked to M&S' overhaul plan, which was focused on "restoring the basics" and transforming the firm's culture towards a "a faster, lower cost, more commercial, more digital business". When Archie Norman was brought in as chairman in September, he said bluntly that "M&S has been drifting and under-fulfilling its promise not for five, 10 but for 15 years".

M&S is also improving its website and investing in its e-commerce capacity, including a site at Castle Donington, with the aim of doubling its online share of clothing and home sales to more than 33%.

However, the M&S boss highlighted that these changes come with costs, which were reflected in Wednesday's results. "In both businesses we need to revitalise our ranges and reassert our reputation for value for money".

M&S said it is taking steps to recover its appeal to "family-age" customers in Clothing & Home, reducing the number of lines and phases, buying "more stylish" products and emphasising value.

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