Womenswear up, but web sales slower than expected at Marks & Spencer as the UK high-street flagship reports yet another drop in overall general merchandise. Hayley Platt reports.
Investors arriving at Marks & Spencers' annual get together. Looking for answers after another set of disappointing figures. Clothing sales for the three months to the end of June fell 0.6 percent on a like-for-like basis, although unusually there was a slight improvement from womenswear. Overall the group's non-food sales were down 1.5 percent. CEO Marc Bolland blamed teething problems of its new website for the hit. With web sales down eight percent, though showing a recent improvement. Many believe it's time for the company's chief to go. SOUNDBITE: Unidentified shareholder, saying (English): "The chief executive Mr Bolland probably after four years has served his time and it's time some fresh blood came in." SOUNDBITE: Unidentified shareholder, saying (English): "His background with Morrison's and in the drinks industry doesn't make him the perfect guy for the clothing business." M&S's problems aren't new. This is the company's 12 consecutive quarterly fall in sales. Despite pouring 2.3 billion pounds into the business over the past three years, and a new design team onboard, so far it's failed to deliver a significant pick up. This year marked the first time M&S earnt less in a year than its faster-growing rival Next. And that's a worry, says Richard Hunter of Hargreaves Lansdown. SOUNDBITE: Richard Hunter, Head of Equities, Hargreaves Lansdown, saying (English): "When you get into such a competitive environment as the one that M&S is in other competitors don't stand still while they're waiting for you to catch up, they're moving on and the gap continues to widen. I think the other thing that concerns, not so much investors as shoppers, as to what Marks & Spencers is trying to be, whether it's to aim at the younger generation or to continue with a traditional slightly older generation." On the positive side, M&S's upmarket food business is still the group's best performer. It contributes more than half of group sales but less profit. Like-for-like food sales were up 1.7 per cent - delivering a 19th consecutive quarter of growth.