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The future’s multichannel for M&S

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Marks & Spencer is looking to multichannel retail, at home and abroad, for growth in the long-term, the high street stalwart said today. A fourth quarter trading statement released by the retailer showed that sales growth was strongest in its online and multichannel operations and overseas.

Total M&S group sales rose by 2.3% in the 13 weeks to April 2 compared to the same time last year, while UK sales rose by just 1%: a 3.4% decline in general merchandise sales was compensated by 4.9% growth in food sales. Like-for-like UK sales, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, were up by only 0.1%.

But online the story was different. Ecommerce arm M&S Direct showed sales up by 13.7% during the period. The period included the first anniversary of M&S’ Shop Your Way multichannel service, which allows shoppers to order in store, online, via their smartphone or other device, or by telephone for delivery in the UK or internationally, or to the store.

The other area of fast growth was in international sales, up by 12.6% in the 12 weeks, and an area that M&S last week announced would expand this year with the launch of a French bricks and clicks capability.

The M&S statement said: “We are now embarking on the first phase of our plan to develop M&S into a leading international multi-channel retailer. While the short term trading conditions will be difficult, we have identified a clear path for long-term growth, and will continue to focus on delivering against our plan.”

Chief executive Marc Bolland added: “We had a good fourth quarter in a challenging trading environment. In times like these customers are increasingly turning to M&S for value, quality and innovation. Strong products backed by great advertising meant we outperformed the market and grew share in both food and clothing.”

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