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
    0

    Comment number 40.

    Many years ago as an M&S shareholder and user. I compalined about the standard of the product once they went overseas for clothes. I got well we are M&S people will use us. The management have no pro British feelings other than to line their own pockets. The demise of UK industry lays at there and the city slickers door.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 39.

    @38 JEFFA - you cancelled you subscription because of the Murdochs? lol!

    These figures show what we all know - the high street is for the old-school, which incidentally is slowly - and naturally - dying out, hence M&S and general retail figures. People will always need food, so Tesco etc are only battling direct customers for share of a stable market. It's only non-staples that risk profits.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 38.

    Typical comments from people who dont "read" what is being said. Mark Bolland sought advice from various professional sources before deciding what to do the idiots were Sky and their arrogance about stock market rules. I cancelled my Sky subsription after the Murdochs fiasco nothing they have done so far to change my mind.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    Firstly this leak being published demonstrates the total lack of morals at Murdoch owned or controlled businesses they full understand stock market regulations.
    Secondly M & S failure in clothing is because its not attracting younger buyers and its branding i.e. Blue Harbour, North Coast, Limited, Collezione etc. are not individual "stores" but areas within one big store always being moved.

  • Comment number 36.

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

  • Comment number 35.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    These figures should come as no surprise to the shopping public and investors alike. M & S now sells poor quality, boring and unstylish clothes at premium prices. The staff are less helpful, and you now have standard return times for goods. And you try daring to take back something that is faulty. Typical Per Uno customers 55 -85 year olds. M & S has lost its "edge" - I can't see it will survive.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 33.

    Marks & Spencer will more than likely return to Netherlands, set shop in Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat. M&S left Netherlands some @ 10 yrs ago, closing stores in the Kalverstraat & The Hague.
    Amsterdam Store will be ‘flagship’ selling food, clothing through an 'e-boutique'. Current boss, Mark Bolland, is a Dutch national.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 32.

    Cant really compare M&S with Tescos whose main rival is really Sainsbury's. Yes JLP has done well but dont be fooled by their image. Waitrose is up to all the tricks of the main supermarkets - reducing sizes but not price, cancelling your price memory by preceding a price rise with a big discount etc etc. At least JLP treats its staff better than most.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 31.

    Well if you clobber the savers and do not give them any interest they will have no money spend, it really is that simple, Blame the BOE for lack of spending in the high st.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 30.

    29

    Carrying on the theme, in brief their pants are pants!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 29.

    Agree with others, it's the fall in QUALITY that keeps me out of M&S. They used to be synonymous with knickers to the nation. But that was before the bottom dropped out of the market.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 28.

    24. Little_Old_Me
    Interesting to see that John Lewis / Waitrose had led the Xmas sales figures. I wonder why? Perhaps this is because the public see the John Lewis Partnership as an honest ethical concern concerned for the welfare of their employees, customers and suppliers at a reasonable price. M&S used to have this USP years ago when the products were Made in Britain but has now been lost.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 27.

    @24. Little_Old_Me

    .....as are Co-Op energy on the gas/electric front - Co-Op put prices DOWN this winter when everyone else put there's up.....

    --

    I'll give you a little tip. If a company puts their prices down but they are still more expensive than the rest then they are still ripping you off.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    M&S just doesn't compete on clothing. Ordered shoes for kids new school term and in store tomorrow to collect. Most other retailers would do next day, just look at how well John Lewis do it - everyone can if they want to.

    Don't get me on a rant about how messy clothing M&S stores are - my local, Tunbridge Wells is a disgrace, Bluewater even worse No logic to stock location and presentation.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 25.

    Over the decades there has definitely been a reduction of quality in Marks and Spencer menswear. Years ago when most was Made in Britain the quality was excellent. Now almost everything is imported and the quality has fallen. Half the problem is the consumer who paid £150.00 for a suit from M&S 30 years ago and still want to pay £150.00 for a suit now. Impossible to have the same quality.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 24.

    It is noticeable that Waitrose/John LEwis have led the Christams sales figures in their respective sectors......


    .....as are Co-Op energy on the gas/electric front - Co-Op put prices DOWN this winter when everyone else put there's up.....


    If we all switch to Co-Op energy the big power companies will have to follow suit!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 23.

    I suppose that not knowing exactly what had been leaked and what had not left M&S in a position which could have had a serious effect on the share price. I would imagine that food would be safe because ultimately we all have to eat but a new suit or dress can wait & those responsible for the sales of this stuff were getting twitchy.
    Jessops have gone to the wall I wonder who's going to be next?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 22.

    18

    The perception of the clothes may be quality but the reality is that they are s**t! People aren't stupid at the end of the day, they may be slow to change etc.

    The UK has sold it's soul and bared it's backside to anyone who is interested, anything that meant anything now means nothing, everything is trash spilling from the overflowing rubbish bin of self gratification.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 21.

    I’ve still got some M&S socks in my sock drawer that I bought in the 1980’s and they are still a delight to wear. The ones I bought from M&S less than a year ago are already falling to pieces and the fabric has rapidly deteriorated and gone brittle. This is why people are abandoning this once great store in droves.

 

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