Marks & Spencer could have as soon as seemed on the ropes but it surely has bounced again with its strongest festive interval for years.
The 138-year-old chain had its best ever Christmas on food and claimed its highest market share in full-price clothes since 2013 as customers rising from final yr’s lockdowns sought out the retailer.
On meals, M&S has undoubtedly benefited from replacing Waitrose as Ocado’s retail partner. Whereas its gross sales by way of Ocado weren’t included in Thursday’s buying and selling replace, the tie-up since September 2020 has raised the retailer’s profile with a youthful viewers and helped broaden its enchantment.
That deal constructed on and underpinned an current effort to draw in family shoppers by reducing costs on fundamentals, providing bigger pack sizes and modernising its meals ranges with extra vegan and natural merchandise. Gross sales of milk and cheese, for instance, rose 12% this Christmas on two years in the past.
The meals boss, Stuart Machin, has additionally stirred in a bigger dose of enjoyable by widening its use of in-house creations corresponding to Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar, alongside new concepts corresponding to snow globe gin and light-up shortbread biscuit tins, greater than 1m of which have been bought in December.
Nonetheless, the actual turnaround is on vogue. This Christmas, M&S partly benefited from a normal surge in clothes gross sales, with fewer restrictions on socialising this yr prompting a nationwide wardrobe refresh.
M&S’s gross sales of bras rose by 13% and denims by 12% as customers have been in a position to strive objects in shops.
Issues concerning the environmental affect of quick vogue have additionally sparked extra curiosity in M&S, which is understood for its higher high quality, extra sturdy clothes.
“There’s a development for longer-lasting merchandise slightly than disposable vogue continues to play to our energy,” Steve Rowe, the chief government, mentioned.
M&S has additionally helped itself by enhancing its on-line service, after fixing critical issues at its foremost warehouse and tightening up its vogue ranges to supply fewer and higher merchandise, so it’s much less reliant on discounting.
On-line gross sales are up 50% on two years in the past as M&S was in a position to capitalise on the final shift to ordering from dwelling with slicker deliveries, together with utilizing shops to pick out and ship merchandise to prospects for the primary time this yr.
A brand new technique of promoting different manufacturers on-line, corresponding to FatFace, White Stuff and Hobbs, in addition to collaborating with adjoining manufacturers corresponding to Ghost and No one’s Little one, can be more likely to have drawn extra customers to the web site.
Beneath the clothes and residential boss, Katie Bickerstaffe, the retailer has targeting getting its on a regular basis fundamentals, corresponding to nightwear and knitwear, to look extra stylishly accessible. Gross sales of these classes rose 25% and 5% respectively, regardless of M&S already being liable for an infinite chunk of jumper gross sales every Christmas.
It has additionally broadened its enchantment by, for instance, shifting the main focus of its kids’s clothes to inexpensive equipment that isn’t only for particular events, and introducing the profitable Goodmove model of train gear. Launched solely two years in the past, Goodmove has grow to be M&S greatest personal label, promoting 1.6m objects yearly.
“Whereas clothes and residential has previously been M&S’s foremost handicap, it has now seemingly turned a nook in its overhaul,” mentioned Pippa Stephens, a retail analyst at GlobalData.
“In addition to revamping its own-brand clothes ranges to be trendier and extra inspiring, the incorporation of well-liked third-party manufacturers like No one’s Little one and Ghost has additionally helped it purchase new prospects. These extra interesting ranges may have allowed M&S to considerably scale back the proportion of merchandise being discounted.”