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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Q&A: Rose's M&S revival plan
Marks and Spencer store in Oxford Street, London

Marks & Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose has revealed the company's operational review, the retailer's "master plan" intended to safeguard its future and see off the proposed 400p a share takeover offer from retail tycoon Philip Green.

BBC News Online looks at how the High Street favourite hopes to revive its fortunes.


Why has M&S undertaken this major review?

The retailer has seen a recovery stall in the past year as it faces fierce competition from smaller fashion retailers and supermarket chains.

It has also found itself in the sights of Mr Green, with the M&S board of directors last week rejecting a third informal approach from the Monaco-based billionaire owner of Bhs, Top Shop and Miss Selfridge.

Mr Green's 400p a share offer put extra pressure on Mr Rose to come up with something that would provide more value for investors, as well as reviving the company's sales.

Why has this tussle attracted so much interest?

With 375 stores, 11 million shoppers a week and 66,000 employees, M&S is a venerable British institution and one of the High Street's best-known names.

However, the days when M&S was unchallenged have long gone as clothing sales have come under pressure from Next and Asda and food revenue has been hit by Tesco.

Mr Green, meanwhile, is credited with reviving Bhs' and Topshop's fortunes and reckons he can do the same at M&S.

What is at the heart of Mr Rose's plans?

A promise to refocus on "core values" and concentrate on female customers in the key 35 to 55 age range, where sales have been suffering.

As Mr Rose admitted: "I don't think we have served them well enough... we have neglected them."

He believes the retail business needs to be re-focussed after becoming "too complicated", with stores that are cluttered.

The company also plans to return 2.3bn to shareholders, with the 1-per-share payment partly funded by the sale of the M&S Money business.

What else does Mr Rose plan to do?

A deal with former Next boss George Davies means M&S will buy the popular Per Una fashion brand for 125m.

However, M&S has said the deal is conditional on there being no change of control at company. Mr Davies has an option to terminate the existing arrangement if there is a takeover.

Plans for a chain of Per Una stand-alone stores, including on the King's Road in London, are not going ahead.

As mentioned above, M&S will sell its financial services division to HSBC Holdings for 762m. The Money business will retain the M&S brand.

The company has also revalued its property portfolio to a higher 3.6bn, but said it has no plans to sell assets, or to take part in any lease-back schemes.

Is that all?

No it's not.

M&S is planning to cut 650 jobs and will halt the roll-out of smaller Simply Food stores.

The axe also will fall on the Lifestore homewares outlet in Gateshead, and other planned stores will not now go ahead. M&S will still have a homes division in its major stores.

There are plans for better co-ordination on in-store decor and external advertising, with a new campaign promised for the autumn under the Your M&S concept.

Existing shop space, meanwhile, is set to be modernised at a cost of about 400m a year.

Any other measures?

As fashions have changed and consumer expectations shifted, M&S's products have been seen as increasingly outdated.

The firm now plans to bring in better products and said its autumn clothing has already been bought. M&S says it eventually wants fewer lines with ranges bought in greater depth.

Prices will be sharpened with emphasis on "good, better, best" products.

At the same time, the company also wants to introduce new terms with suppliers and a tighter operation of the supply chain is envisaged to deliver 175m of cost cuts by 2006/07.

The company has yet to explain how it hopes to source "best" products from a squeezed supply chain.

Will it be enough?

Total savings in the financial year ending 2007 are expected to be 320m, while Mr Rose says the plan provides "value today and value tomorrow".

The board is "confident that these measures, together with unlocking the retail potential of Marks & Spencer, will deliver value significantly in excess of 400p per share to our shareholders".

Mr Rose will now seek to charm shareholders in a series of meetings, but does not expect a quick conclusion to the takeover battle.

"I wouldn't expect to get the thumbs up or thumbs down by this afternoon," he said on Monday.

What do the experts say?

Among analysts, the jury appears to be out, with the turnaround plan given a mixed reaction. While some believe Mr Rose has done enough, others have expressed doubts.

The BBC's business editor Jeff Randall said the plans do not contain many surprises.

"I can't see a really big rabbit in the hat," he told BBC News 24, adding that the shake-up was merely "good housekeeping".

And what can Philip Green do now?

The Takeover Panel has given Mr Green until 6 August to make a formal bid. However he has said he would only make a formal bid if the M&S board accepted his offer.

He will now be hoping large shareholders lobby the M&S directors to accept his proposed 400p a share offer.




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