Marks & Spencer announced pre-tax profits of £564.3m in the year to April 2013, a 14% drop from the previous year and the lowest total since 2005. Food sales expanded, but like-for-like general merchandise mostly clothing sales fell by an annual 4.1%. Underlying clothing and homeware sales have now slid for seven successive quarters.
However, the shares rose as M&S signalled a fall in capital expenditure from next year as the bulk of its modernisation programme has now been implemented. That implies more money for shareholders.
What the commentators said
M&S is spending £2.4bn over three years to revamp its shops and infrastructure. But operational improvements won't matter "unless the retailer can rediscover its panache", said Retail Vision's John Ibbotson.
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In food, M&S has "outperformed the likes of Tesco by positioning [itself] as the destination for high-quality food for special occasions [and] Saturday nights on the sofa", said The Daily Telegraph. But its performance in clothing, notably the core womenswear business, has been poor.
On the plus side, the autumn-winter range has "won strong reviews for its quality and style". A sharp jump in like-for-like sales this autumn and winter may be too much to hope for, but there will have to be demonstrable progress soon if patience is not to run out with chief executive Marc Bolland.
A year should be long enough for him to show that his "turnaround is actually turning", said Simon English in The Independent. Then, he will either be hailed a retail genius or move on, "holding an utterly gigantic cheque as a reward for his failure". In which case, it's a safe bet the M&S board will conclude "that the next move is to recruit an even more expensive outsider" to have another go.
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