Marks & Spencer is the latest name in the UK retail sector to offer robust Christmas trading with clothing sales topping expectations. Given all the gloom around in the background this is clearly good news.
It suggests the Marks & Spencer proposition is resonating with shoppers and that is evident in the market share gains the business is making. Marks has undoubtedly gone through some tough times but it has endured where other rivals – Debenhams and BHS, among others – have fallen by the wayside.
AJ Bell’s Russ Mould said: “The company has progress to make in its digital business but its joint venture with Ocado already seems to be serving the food side of the business very nicely. Food did particularly well in the peak Christmas period – suggesting people were still willing to splash out for a bit of festive cheer.
“However, these market share gains didn’t come free, particularly on the food side, as Marks cut prices to get people through the door. Like nearly everyone else the company is also facing a significant increase in costs.
“When it comes to the elements which it can control, Marks seems to be doing a really solid job with the improvement in the clothing and homewares arm, long an Achilles heel for the group, particularly notable.”