Marks and Spencer's premature release

 
Marks and Spencer sign

Marks and Spencer did something unusual this evening at ten to eight, which is put out its trading statement almost 12 hours earlier than scheduled.

The reason is there had been a leak to Sky News of a couple of the figures, which showed that - as expected - sales of clothes and general merchandise have been poor in the last three months of the year, which includes the important Christmas period.

M&S's chief executive Marc Bolland told me he was advised by the company's lawyers, public relations advisers and brokers that he had to put out the rest of the three-month figures, because otherwise he would have been unable to respond to overnight media enquiries .

But markets are not open tonight and it is unusual for a business to react to a leak in this way. In 30 years of keeping an eye on the stock market, I don't recall anything quite like it.

Some may argue the incident shows M&S senior directors no longer have the confidence to do their own thing and face down the outside world in the way that was characteristic of the company for many decades.

As for the numbers themselves, the poor clothing sales had been widely anticipated - and new managers of that part of M&S were brought in towards the end of the year.

By contrast M&S Christmas food sales were pretty good, and the profitability of sales in general - or profit margins - improved.

So these numbers are unlikely to shock investors, they don't represent a profit warning, even if the early release of the figures is a bit of a surprise.

Update 09.15, 10 January 2013

It is a tale of two retailing giants, giant ships passing in the night.

Tesco may be sailing into calmer waters, with signs that its expensive rehabilitation of UK stores may be paying off: it has reported a 1.8% increase in like-for-like or underlying sales, its best performance for three years.

And its shares are up 2.8%.

So critics of its chief executive, Philip Clarke, will keep quiet, for now at least - though they will want to see a sustained recovery before becoming convinced he should be at the helm for the duration.

Clarke clearly feels more relaxed about what is going on in the core British operation, given that he has handed over the national levers to a new UK MD.

As for M&S, investors seem unimpressed both by its lousy UK clothing and general merchandise performance, and by the spectacle of management mayhem in the form of the premature release last night of its trading figures.

Last time I looked, M&S's shares were down more than 4.5%.

Those investors querying whether Marc Bolland is the right CEO for these challenging times will not be reassured.

 
Robert Peston, economics editor Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 20.

    Another pathetic shambles of a performance. Bolland is starting to compete with the hopeless Holmes for the title M&S's biggest mistake. The man must go.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    I've been an M&S shopper since? Food is by far the best on the high st for quality and some item value,however need to do better in other items,Best quality no doubt, clothing men's wear great.Can't complain, but women's wear not up to standard both in style and quality,for me quality is the biggest issues.Quality underpins M&S, get that right and style ..not fashion will follow.M&S still the best

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    I don't think anyone will be surprised by this. The last thing you'd choose to buy when strapped for cash is clothes from M&S. Yes the quality is excellent, but the prices aren't. . . . . .These giants need to remember that we are in a recession and if they were to cut prices just a little bit, we may be in the position to actually buy, therefore keeping them in business. They are too greedy

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 17.

    I paid £0.38 for that.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 16.

    M&S have brought this upon themselves, when they dumped UK clothing suppliers with very little warning in favour of cheap imported tat I stopped buying anything from M&S as did many of my friends. The CEO's answer to the problem? More executives another expensive short term fix so typical of UK management who's interest in the company is welded to their own earnings rather than the future.

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 14.

    Maybe it's a sign of the times. Pre issued reports with an embargo till a certain time are a risk for high profile companies. Many have access to sensitive information; best to release early if only in part.
    Good for stockmarket trading, good for regulators who can investigate insider trading, good for gamblers on the stock market. Not good for the ignorant but that's most of us. Twas ever thus.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 13.

    I shop only at M&S for clothing, and have noticed over the last few years that quality and durability have been going downhill. I guess the expectation is that nothing should last more than 2 or 3 years.

    M&S food is still fine, even though it's more expensive than others. You just have to witness the madness at the bigger M&S food outlets in the run up to Christmas.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    Twitchy is the word that comes to mind.


    But also realise that M&S have been living on borrowed time for 3 or is it 4 years.

    So perhaps twitchy is an understatement.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    It's sad, but M&S has really gone down the pan. It's no longer the place for your undies; fabric, cut and quality have all gone the way of the dinos throughout their clothing ranges. As for their food, portion sizes have gone from petite to downright absurd. And does anyone else remember the lovely Belgian biccy assortment they did years ago? Their updated equivalent makes this biscuit lover weep.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 10.

    4. John_from_Hendon
    D notices were replaced by DA notices in 2008, they’re only advisory anyway, usually about seven or eight in force at any given time.

    M & S CEO bottle gone or no grasp of importance … no one would have noticed… a publicity stunt maybe?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    Has anyone been into an M&S recently? Shocking clothes aimed at people who are unfashionable, dull as ditch water. Food over priced and bought by people who are lazy and think it is quality.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 8.

    1.Evs

    We live in a world where there are many people trying to climb the ladder of success (aka The Greasy Pole).

    Putting the boot into Marc Bolland is a strange way for you to react to this news item - when clearly it wasn't his mistake. An office junior has boobed. Marc Bolland has shown clear leadership by grasping the nettle and dealing with the issue. M&S shareholders love him. Got it?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    Twisted and disingenuous times. Words are becoming valueless.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 6.

    This has nothing to do with Mr Bolland. "Price sensitive" information had been leaked, it could have come from his own staff, house broker or PR company. There wasn't time to investigate, so he had no option but to release the full details (especially,as Robert points out,they served to counteract the selective bad news that Sky ran with). Not sure about "Markets closed"? What about ADRs/futures?

  • Comment number 5.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    The reality is that many timed press releases are issued early and embargoed till release time . I guess Sky wanted to make some news on a slow night!

    Stuff happens like walking down Downing Street with papers in your hand....

    By the way how many 'D' Notices are in force at present?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    This is not just any IMS.... this is an M&S IMS

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 2.

    Our company does a lot of work for M&S and just about all their core services seem to be outsourced. You rarely deal with an M&S employee and getting a decision out of them is a long painful process. Their IT setup, in particular, seems to be years behind the times. Still - best food on the High St by a mile.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1.

    I'm surprised about the early release of the figures, by doing this has the CEO shown a weakness in his leadership. Surely he could have just switched his phone off and closed his curtains if the company was concerned about the media questions tonight. Maybe it was a test and he has just failed....... goodbye Mr Bolland?

 

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