M&S results are solid but Bolland has more to do

Marks & Spencer is always under the spotlight. Seen as a bellwether of UK high street performance, all eyes are on M&S’s every move, and as its new CEO, that goes for Marc Bolland too.

This week, M&S reported solid full year trading results this week with profit up 4.6% to £632m and the first positive like for like food sales in two years.

M&S has successfully dragged itself through the recession and modernised both its image and its offer since Sir Stuart Rose came on board as CEO six years ago but Bolland, who finally joined the chain three weeks ago, has a lot to do.

Bolland is starting his tenure at M&S by taking three months to look at every aspect of the business from its supply chain and operation through to its stores and marketing strategies.

He will report back with his findings and outline his forward looking strategy when the chain reports interim results in November. Until then all we can do is guess what directions he may take.

Analysts were divided in their expectations from the full year results with some predicting the high street stalwart would produce a strong set of results, while others expected less inspiring results.

Commentators are however unanimous in the view that the retailer, which is the UK’s largest clothing retailer, needs to do something radical to keep ahead of the game. Suggestions include a partnership with Ocado, the online grocery delivery firm to get its food offer online.

It’s true that if M&S wants to compete with the rest of the grocery sector, Bolland will need to look at its pricing and address the issue of online availability.

It’s been said before that M&S food business is battling hardest with Waitrose. The upmarket grocer has shed some of its perceived overpriced nature with the successful launch of its Essentials range during the recession. Although Sir Stuart says the Your M&S campaign has done a lot to improve the price perceptions of M&S, price is still seen as a barrier for M&S.

It will also be interesting to see if Bolland, himself a marketer, and his marketing chief, be it Steven Sharpe or a newcomer, stick with the newly coined M&S marketing strapline “Just because” or completely rethink the retailer’s marketing strategy.

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