M&S turned round by a shelf-stacker who made it to the top
MARKS & SPENCER has had a dramatic turnaround in fortunes — in a triumph for its former shelf-stacker boss.
The store’s rising sales have led to a 56 per cent increase in halfyear pre-tax profits, taking them to £325.6 million.
Chief executive Stuart Machin, whose working life began as £3.80an-hour shelf-stacker at Sainsbury’s and reportedly now earns £800,000, has played a big part in the success.
Rising food and clothing sales saw M&S regain top spot as Britain’s favourite fashion retailer for the first time in four years.
And as it looks towards the crucial Christmas ‘golden quarter’ a sell-out sparkly sequin dress, as modelled by Hannah Waddingham in its starstudded festive TV ad, points to further success.
Its high-quality food lines have won customers who are dining more at home rather than eating out.
Total sales for the six months to the end of September were up by 10.8 per cent on the same period last year to £6.1 billion.
On the back of this, operating profit rose 83.7 per cent to £315 million and the pre-tax profit before adjustments was up 75.3 per cent £360.2 million.
Food sales were up by 14.7 per cent, while the company responded to cost- of- living concerns with its Remarksable Value range offering price freezes and cuts across more than 200 lines. Clothing and home sales increased 5.7 per cent at a time when many rivals have struggled.
Stuart Machin said: ‘ We are definitely seeing good sales performance in our Christmas ranges. In food, people are buying into the ranges and actually eating those ranges now . . .
‘I think we’re in very good shape. We have maintained our relentless focus on trusted value, giving our customers exceptional quality product at the best possible price.’
Robyn Duffy, senior analyst at RSM UK, said the results ‘show that Brits have fallen back in love with M&S’.
Peel Hunt equity analyst Jonathan Pritchard described the update as ‘embarrassingly good’, adding: ‘M&S is making strong steps towards a full recovery. The food offer is as good as it has ever been, and the clothing and home ranges are improving but not quite there yet.’
Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, added: ‘ M&S continues its transformation at speed. Clothing and home is fast becoming the poster child for the new-look M&S. The lines and the look of the offering are clearly appealing to the new target market of the “modern mainstream customer” as the company attempts to throw off the shackles of a previously dowdy and tired image.’
Shares in the company closed up 8.4 per cent, meaning they have all but doubled over the past year.
The positive figures saw M&S restore its dividend for the first time since 2019-20 with a 1 pence per share interim payout.
M&S boss Stuart Machin worked his way up from the shop floor to the boardroom. More than 30 years ago, at the age of 16, he landed his first job as a shelf stacker at a Sainsbury’s in Kent. And while he had wanted to head to university to train to become a religious studies teacher, he decided against it. ‘After finishing my A-levels, I was offered a place at university, but at the last minute I changed my mind and decided to stick with retail,’ he said.
‘Put simply, I loved the excitement retail offered. Serving and selling to customers, working in a team, the opportunity to progress.’
By the age of 21, he was running his own department. And he went on to work at other retail giants such as Tesco and Asda. He got the top job at M&S in May last year.
The M&S turnaround also represents success for its chairman, Archie Norman, and a top management team that includes co-chief executive Katie Bickerstaffe, food managing director Alex Freudmann, womenswear director Maddy Evans and marketing director Sharry Cramond. Bickerstaffe, whose previous senior roles include a high-profile job at Dixons Carphone, is the retailer’s first female leader.
Freudmann’s CV includes stints with Tesco and the giant Australian chain Coles, while Cramond, is also a former Tesco and Coles executive. The recruitment of former Topshop fashion director Evans has also been celebrated for bringing the failing brand back to life.
‘Our relentless focus on trusted value’