M&S reveals falling sales and profits amid overhaul

Retail giant Marks & Spencer has posted a 10% drop in annual profits due to falling sales across its clothing arm and food halls as a sweeping overhaul takes its toll.

The high street bellwether posted underlying pre-tax profits of £523.2m (€594m) for the year to March 30, down from £580.9m (€659.7m) the previous year.

Boss Steve Rowe said there were “green shoots” of a turnaround, but added that performance was not consistent and had been hit by its store closure programme and wide-ranging revamp plan.

The group warned that it remained in the “difficult early stages” of its turnaround and progress will largely not come until the second half of 2019-20.

M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said there were ‘green shoots’ of a turnaround (Marks & Spencer/PA)
M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said there were ‘green shoots’ of a turnaround (Marks & Spencer/PA)

M&S said it will axe another 85 full-line stores and around 25 Simply Food outlets on top of the 35 full-line branches closed in 2018-19, although it said the overall size of the chain will remain as expected as it also opens and relocates shops.

In an update on its shop closure programme, it said it was relocating or reducing Simply Food shops that have lower sales as it focuses efforts on the best-performing locations.

It said: “Our strategy is as much about right sizing, relocating and new openings as it is about closures.

“As such we anticipate our owned store base is likely to remain broadly level.”

Comparable sales in its troubled womenswear arm dropped 1.6% with a 1.3% fall in the final three months after it was hit by the timing of Easter and poor stock availability.

Like-for-like sales in its food halls fell 2.3% following a 1.5% decline in the fourth quarter, although this was also affected by the timing of Easter.

We remain on track with our transformation and are now well on the road to making M&S special again

Mr Rowe said: “Whilst there are green shoots, we have not been consistent in our delivery in a number of areas of the business.

“M&S is changing faster than at any time in my career – substantial changes across the business to our processes, ranges and operations – and this has constrained this year’s performance, particularly in clothing and home.

“However, we remain on track with our transformation and are now well on the road to making M&S special again.”

The results showed statutory pre-tax profits stood at £84.6m (€96m), up 26.6% on the previous year.

M&S also released details of a £601.3m (€682.9m) rights issue to finance its joint venture with online grocer Ocado.

The investor cash call will help fund the deal with Ocado to boost its food offering and online delivery service.

The group’s results confirmed a hefty cut to its shareholder dividend payout, down 25.7% to 13.9p (16c) a share.

- Press Association

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