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M&S reports 20% boost to online Christmas sales

Image courtesy of M&S

Marks & Spencer today reported a 20.9% ecommerce boost over the Christmas quarter, as more customers chose to shop online. But fast online growth could not prevent an overall third-quarter dip in UK sales as Black Friday discounting was followed by “unprecedented levels of promotional activity in the market.” Across the Marks & Spencer Group, sales were flat.

At the same time, chief executive Marc Bolland announced his retirement, with Steve Rowe, currently executive director of general merchandise and previously executive director, food, set to succeed him in leading M&S towards its aim of becoming an international multichannel business.

Robert Swannell, chairman of Marks & Spencer Group, said Bolland had led M&S as it invested in infrastructure and capabilities as the retailer transformed into a multichannel business. “It is now positioned for a digital age, with its own on-line platform and dedicated ecommerce distribution centre, improved design and sourcing capabilities in general merchandise and an industry-leading track record of growth and innovation in the food business.”

Today’s trading statement showed that despite the boost from online, UK sales fell by 0.3% in the 13 weeks to December 26. Sales reported on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, were down by 2.5%. Across the group, sales remained flat, at 0% growth.

Food sales were up by 3.7% (0.4% like-for-like), rising by 17% in the Christmas week alone, while “disappointing” general merchandise sales fell by 5% (5.8% LFL). M&S, an Elite retailer in the IRUK Top500 research, said both that it would look again at availability, ranging and design, but also pointed to record levels of discounting that started in November and intensified through December.

M&S said that its website business had a “strong performance with continued improvement in traffic and customer experience.” Its Castle Donington distribution centre dispatched “record volumes”. Some 3.3m people have now joined the Sparks loyalty club since it launched 11 weeks ago.

Image: M&S

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