Poor old M&S – its shares dropped 1.6% mere minutes into this morning’s trading, and headlines all over the UK are bemoaning it as “beleaguered” and “struggling” following “further sales falls”.
And, yes, clothing and homeware sales have dropped yet again, down by 2.1% in the three months to December 2013 – the 10th quarterly drop in a row, no less.
And yes, CEO Marc Bolland has had to admit that “an exceptionally unseasonal October, which saw GM [general merchandise, i.e. clothing and homeware] sales down strongly, has resulted in a quarterly performance below our expectations”.
But it’s not as bad as the doom-mongering headlines might have you believe.
Overall group sales actually crept up by 0.2% in the three months to December, with food up by 1.6%.
Food accounts for more than half of M&S’s group sales, and on 23 December alone the company took £64m on food sales – it’s biggest food sales day ever.
Sure, perhaps overall group sales growth of 0.2% is not the stellar performance you might expect from one of Britain’s (supposedly) best-loved retailers in the run-up to Christmas – but it’s also not nearly as alarming as the sales falls we’re seeing at other retailers.
And no one seems to be talking much about the very significant icing on the Christmas cake: online sales leapt up a whopping 22.7% in the three months to December.
That’s not just online growth, that’s M&S online growth.