Marks & Spencer sales: Shoppers turn to Primark

Way off the Marks! Sales nosedive at 'frumpy' M&S as shoppers turn to PrimarkRetail giant sees profits fall from 307m to 297mChief executive Marc Bolland under pressure following mistakes last yearManagement reshuffle made last year set to show benefits next summer



22:28 GMT, 6 November 2012

Women have branded its latest clothing ranges unfashionable, poor-fitting and confusingly sized.

So perhaps it is little wonder that Marks & Spencer’s clothing division has reported its worst sales performance for three years.

The high street giant admitted a string of mistakes with its womenswear was behind the 10 per cent fall in profits.

Scroll down to see the M&S Christmas ad

Myleene Klass showing off the M&S summer range

Twiggy also promotes the M&S range

Poster girls: Myleene Klass and Twiggy are just two of the famous faces who promote the M&S range

The disappointing performance was
highlighted by a surge in sales by budget fashion chain Primark, with
hard-up consumers flocking to its cut-price clothing.

Primark said its rise in profits was
thanks to the increasing numbers of middle-class converts – customers
who might usually turn to M&S for their clothes.

Responding to M&S’s fall in
pre-tax profit to 289.5million for the half-year from 321million in
the same period the previous year, chief executive Marc Bolland said he
had inherited a list of problems from his predecessor, Sir Stuart Rose.

He said these included the retailer’s
computer systems, which were ‘not fit for purpose’ and the stores
themselves, which ‘lacked inspiration’.

Feeling the heat: M&S chief executive Marc Bolland is under pressure to deliver improvements

Feeling the heat: M&S chief executive Marc Bolland is under pressure to deliver improvements

The Dutchman also said M&S’s
website was poor, while its supply network was ‘complex and inflexible’ –
resulting in stores running out of stock on popular items.

On its website – which allows
customers to leave reviews of the clothing they have bought – there are a
string of complaints about the quality of some of the fabrics used in
the clothing, and the ‘inconsistent’ sizing which has left many women

Some styles are also branded ‘uncomfortable’, ‘frumpy’ and ‘unflattering’.

Yesterday M&S said it had taken decisive action to turn the clothing division around and back key fashion trends.

Mr Bolland said a lingerie range
designed by supermodel and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley had shifted
more than 100,000 pieces since the end of August, making it one of the
fastest-selling ever.

Big drop: Marks and Spencer saw their half year profits fall to the lowest point for three years

Big drop: Marks and Spencer saw their half year profits fall to the lowest point for three years

Mr Bolland has also overhauled the
retailer’s clothing team, hiring former Debenhams and Jaeger boss
Belinda Earl to revitalise womenswear and Janie Schaffer – who formerly
worked at Victoria’s Secret – as the new director of lingerie.

He made a barbed jibe at Primark’s
success – saying M&S would focus on quality when it launches its own
version of ‘fast fashion’, adding: ‘We are not interested in disposable
clothing ranges.’

But Primark supremo George Weston,
buoyed by a 15 per cent rise in sales to 3.5billion for the year,
snapped back, saying: ‘We don’t look on ours being disposable either –
what makes us difficult to compete with is our quality which is good,
particularly on basics like T-shirts, underwear, nightwear and towels.
Our quality stands in comparison with anyone out there.’

Mr Weston, boss of Primark’s owner
Associated British Foods, said he had even had to increase the number of
tills by a third in Primark stores to take shoppers’ cash.

But both retailers warned recent
trading had been tough, with Mr Bolland warning the market was
‘volatile’ and the second half of the year would be tough as retailers
tried to outdo each other with price-cutting promotions.


Critiqued: Drop-a-Dress-Size Floral-Print Silhouette Stretch Dress is a bad fit, customer reviews say

Critiqued: Drop-a-Dress-Size Floral-Print Silhouette Stretch Dress is a bad fit, customer reviews say

M&S customers’ dissatisfaction with many of the retailer’s products is shown in the reviews they have written on its website, which include:

Bootcut Denim Crystal jeans 32.50
‘They dragged on the ground when I walked and the hem was about two to three inches wide and very heavy. I used to have perfect length fit from jeans from Marks and Spencer, what has happened’

2-Pack: Assorted Padded T-Shirt Bras 22.50
‘Does anyone try these [pictured inset] on at the design stage These look great and are the right size BUT, and it’s a big BUT, the straps are so far out towards your shoulders they cut into your arms. Unless you walk around behaving as though you have a coat hanger down the back of your shirt, they are really uncomfortable.’

Drop-a-Dress-Size Floral-Print Silhouette Stretch Dress with Secret Support 59.00
‘Really like the style but the 8 was too tight and the 10 too big. Had to return.’

Body-Shape Denim Lana Straight-Leg Jeans 25.00
‘I don’t know how I managed to get these so wrong! I’m usually a 12 medium but when I tried these on they were two inches too short, low on the waist so gave me a muffin top where I don’t really have one.’
‘A great fit… for about two hours. After four hours of wearing them they were falling down and I quite literally stepped out of them without undoing them… needless to say they have gone back. Come on Marks, get it right! Try some quality-control before you put them on the shelves.’

Per Una Abstract-Print Gathered Pleat Dress 39.50
‘This had to be returned as it didn’t fit correctly. Disappointed with the sizing – no continuity! Two other dresses ordered with this one, all different styles and all three had to be returned as didn’t fit.’

Per Una Gathered-Waist Paisley Print Dress 45.00
‘The dress was very nice but didn’t fit me well, was large across the top so the neck hung awkwardly at the front. I went into the store and tried a size smaller, but although it was a bit too tight, the neck part was still too loose.’

Limited Collection Contrast Trim Blouse 29.50
‘Lovely blouse but cut very straight and I found it gaped too much around the bust area.’

Per Una 3D Appliqu Pencil Skirt 45.00
‘This is not good; the fabric has a very “man-made” feel to it; it is rather unflatteringly clingy and the so-called appliqu is not! It is devor and not well done. I was disappointed and it went straight back.’

Per Una Slash-Neck Paisley-Print Dress 39.50
‘I had high expectations for this dress [pictured right], but was so very disappointed. Frumpy, tight across the chest and arms; even a size larger was too tight. Looks lovely on the model but awful on me! It was probably the most unflattering dress I have ever tried on. A no-no!’