M&S boss wins backing despite food sales ‘below expectations’

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

M&S sourcing boss Louise Nicholls will be taking part in our free lean manufacturing and evaluation webinar at 11am on Tuesday April 26
M&S sourcing boss Louise Nicholls will be taking part in our free lean manufacturing and evaluation webinar at 11am on Tuesday April 26
City analysts have backed the new boss at Marks & Spencer (M&S), Steve Rowe, after the company unveiled food sales below analysts’ expectations.  

The retailer unveiled a trading statement last week claiming that food sales continued to outperform the market for the 13 weeks to March 26 2016. 

Food sales were up 4%; like-for-like (LFL) sales were flat, while market share grew to 4.3%. Overall, group sales were up 1.9% for the quarter but clothing and home struggled with sales down -1.9%.

In a statement M&S said: “The food business continued to outperform a highly competitive market. In line with our strategy, our store opening programme continues to drive strong sales growth.

“We opened 80 new stores in the year and as a result we grew our market share to 4.3%. Customers turn to us for special occasions and this quarter was no exception with our biggest ever Mothers’ Day.”

Food sales below forecasts

Shore Capital said it backed the new boss but also highlighted some disappointment with the food sales. It had forecast a 1% rise in LFL sales, not flat, as the trading statement revealed.

It added that underlying same store food sales, excluding Easter, were down by 1%.

Shore Capital said: “We see the new ceo as a force for good in the business, one that can build upon a lot of heavy lifting undertaken by his predecessor, Marc Bolland, in terms of business infrastructure and process.”

New boss cut ‘some slack’

Connor Campbell, a senior market analyst at www.spreadex.com​, said investors had showed a willingness to cut the new ceo “some slack”.​  But he said food sales, which is the company’s “perpetual silver lining”, ​had “underperformed”​ analysts’ forecasts.

Honor Westnedge, lead analyst at Verdict Retail, agreed: “Food continues to be the hero sector, but 80 new stores are responsible for the 4% rise, with LFLs​ [sales] flat.”

M&S preliminary results are expected on the May 25, 2016.

Meanwhile, Louise Nicholls, M&S head of responsible sourcing and packaging and Plan A, will be taking part in the Food Manufacture Group’s free, one-hour webinar​ – Lean and green manufacturing: realising world class potential – at 11am on Tuesday April 26. See box for details.

M&S sourcing boss in lean and green manufacturing and evaluation webinar

M&S head of responsible sourcing and packaging and Plan A, Louise Nicholls will be joining an expert panel of speakers to probe the potential of lean and green food and drink manufacturing and evaluation techniques in a free, one-hour webinar at 11am on Tuesday April 26. The sourcing boss will focus on the retailer’s pioneering approach to lean and green evaluation processes and how they can benefit all involved in food and drink supply chains.

Nicholls will be joined by Greencore’s group technical director Helen Sisson, who will explain how lean and green manufacturing has boosted the convenience food manufacturer’s performance.

Also taking part will be fast-moving consumer goods specialist Simon Spanyol and Jeremy Praud, partner with event sponsor Lauras International.

Each speaker will deliver a short presentation on their perspective of the business and ethical benefits of lean and green manufacturing and sourcing, before taking part in a panel discussion.

Delegates can submit questions during the presentations and discussion or send one in advance​ for consideration by the team. Reserve your free place at our webinar here​.

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