M&S festive marketing activity fails to lift overall clothing sales

Clothing and home division underperformed despite small increase in retailer's overall Q3 sales.

M&S: clothing and home sales were down 1.7%
M&S: clothing and home sales were down 1.7%

Marks & Spencer has posted a 0.2% increase in like-for-like third-quarter sales across its UK business to £2.7bn, driven by a 1.4% increase in food sales to £1.7bn – but clothing and home sales continued to dip.

The retailer, which last year appointed fashion specialist Odd as its new ad agency for clothing, said it had seen its first quarter of growth in three years with the overall sales increase. Clothing and home sales, however, continued a trajectory of decline, with sales down 1.7% to £1.1bn.

Despite the fall, chief executive Steve Rowe said on a results call that its new marketing strategy had been a success and that the business' transformation strategy was on track.

M&S confirmed to Campaign that it sold 45,000 blue fairisle jumpers – as worn by the protagonist in Odd's "Go jumpers" Christmas ad – and that the campaign increased the sale of jumpers across womenswear and menswear by 6% and 7% respectively.

Odd's follow-up, "Go pyjamas", also increased sales of children's pyjamas by 10%, a spokeswoman said.

Too many skinny jeans

Speaking on the call, Rowe said womenswear had continued to improve but that menswear had been impacted by "one-off" range issues, which included M&S stocking too many skinny jeans in the wrong size, he said, and not enough of the classic fit.

"We delivered an improved performance in Q3 across both main businesses," he said. "The food business continued to outperform the market, and clothing and home had a strong start to the quarter, albeit this was followed by a challenging trading environment in the lead-up to Christmas.

"As we drive a faster pace of change, disappointing one-off issues – notably waste and supply chain in the food business, the shape of buy in menswear and performance in our gifting categories – held us back from delivering a stronger result.

"However, the changes we made earlier in the year in clothing have arrested the worst of the issues of the first six months and we are progressively building a much stronger team for the future."

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