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M&S making ‘strong progress’ at halfway point of march towards international multichannel retailing

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Marks & Spencer today unveiled a 17.8% rise in multichannel sales, and hailed “strong progress” at the halfway point in its three-year plan to become a leading multichannel international retailer.

Pre-tax profits dipped by 9.7% to £289.5m in the six months to September 29 from £320.5m last time, while group sales rose to £4.697bn, up by 0.4% on last time’s £4.677bn. The small boost to sales was driven, said M&S, by good performances in food and multichannel.

“Eighteen months in, we are making strong progress with our plan to transform M&S into an international multichannel retailer,” said Marc Bolland, chief executive. “Our new international stores are performing well and our multichannel business is delivering strong growth.”

The 17.8% rise in multichannel sales came from sales involving more than one sales channel which were up by 14.9% in the first quarter and 21.6% up in the second quarter.

M&S’ multichannel Shop Your Way service saw more than 43% of orders collected in store or ordered in store for home delivery in the first half. Free next day delivery to stores is now in place in the run up to Christmas, while a third of its dresses and one in five suits are now bought online, the company said.

Meanwhile, sales from new channels rose by almost three times as recent innovations were expanded across stores. That included the addition of 112 new Browse and Order points in 40 stores, 1,500 iPads for sales assistants, intended to help them give more personal service, and the expansion of the Style Online e-boutique to 12 smaller format stores.

Some of those concepts are showcased in the new Cheshire Oaks multichannel store (pictured), which brings digital into the store through technology such as Browse and Order points. The store opened in August and sales are now 30% ahead of plan. The new concept is being rolled out across stores in the UK and to a selection of overseas outlets during 2013.

M&S’ mobile-optimised site was relaunched in May, during a first half in which sales from the site were 77% ahead of the first half. Its first transactional iPhone app went live in July and has been downloaded more than 340,000 times.

On its international online business, the company said more than 2.5m customers visited its French ecommerce business during the first half. Its Irish website launched in April and the company also plans to launch transactional sites in four more European markets later this month, as announced last week.

Across its international business, sales rose by 3.6% to £0.5bn but operating profits fell by 7.3% to £54.4m, dented by currency movement, the economic situation in Ireland and Greece, and the cost of launching in new markets. Nineteen new international shops opened in the first half, taking M&S to 396 shops in 44 countries.


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