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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 09:40 GMT
Where now for M&S?
M&S is pinning its hopes on its spring collection
M&S is pinning its hopes on its spring collection
Chairman Luc Vandevelde's boast last year that Marks and Spencer would have a bumper Christmas must ring particularly hollow in the light of Tuesday's trading statement.

A sales drop of 5.1% in the most important period of the year is not good news in anyone's book, particularly when the poorest performance comes in core areas such as adult clothing.

It has had to completely reverse the whole philosophy inside itself and that takes time

Retail analyst Theresa Wickham
But how bad is the venerable department store's position?

And - in giving himself two years to turn M&S around - has Mr Vandevelde, appointed last year, made a rod for his own back?

Faster reactions

Retail analyst, Theresa Wickham, former corporate affairs director at Safeway, believes the biggest problem for Marks is time.

"It has got to be much faster in getting new products into the store.

"It has got to be very focused on what the customer wants now.

"Five or six years ago M&S put out its products and waited to see if they sold.

"It has had to completely reverse the whole philosophy inside itself and that takes time," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The company's first TV advertising campaign, launched in a blaze of publicity last autumn, had alerted people to the fact that M&S wanted to change, but it had not yet made people return to its shelves, she added.

Part of the problem was the lack of consistency between M&S's large, flagship stores - many of which have undergone expensive refits - and its smaller stores.

M & S chairman Luc Vandevelde
Luc Vandevelde promised a good Christmas
"Their big problem is matching the expectation when they have smaller stores.

"That is quite a dilemma and they have to be quite careful about the store mix.

"People who shop in a good store and then find another will get a very confused message about M&S."

No quick fixes

She added: "I think they will have to look at their portfolio and realise some of them will have to go."

But she added: "Both the City, and to a certain extent the media, want a quick fix.

"Sainsbury's is in the same position. It will take two or three years."

"They have been hoist by their own petard, in suddenly saying that they can do it within a certain time and they can't.

"It will take them another year or so."

The ace up M&S's sleeve, according to Ms Wickam is likely to be their spring collection, which has received good reviews.

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See also:

23 Jan 01 | Business
Fresh sales slump at M&S
23 Jan 01 | Business
Streaker ad fails to halt slide
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