After weeks of whining, criticism, and even a near revolt by his shareholders, M&S chairman and chief executive Sir Stuart Rose has finally done something to be proud of.
Yes, while newspapers were predicting his demise and yet more shareholders were calling for him to resign, Sir Stuart was toiling away in that office of his, trying his darndest to save the company - and he's kind of done it. Sort of.
Ok, it’s not exactly brilliant news, because it turns out sales are actually down - but Rose can still afford to give himself a little pat on the back because they were only down by 4% - less than the 7.5% forecast by analysts
Rose, who became the golden boy of British business in 2006 after he executed a dramatic turnaround of the brand just as many were mourning its loss, has been the subject of much speculation of late.
The brand saw its food sales plummet at the end of last year as shoppers switched to bargain supermarkets Aldi and Lidl in droves, causing whispers the company would close its Simply Food stores. Even Rose admitted he had made mistakes: “We didn’t give [our customers] the right innovation, we didn’t give them the right value for money in some cases and we didn’t give them the right promotions.”
To avert the near-crisis, the company adapted to recession tastes by cashing in on the trend for staying in, introducing £10 ‘meal for two’ deals and even a special mothers’ day deal, as well as targeting families struggling with additional costs by introducing cheaper school clothes, with a £1 pinafore which even undercut Asda.
In a BBC article today, Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown, said the company is likely to weather the storm. “M&S seems to have been here before,” he said. “After criticism of misguided offerings, along with the company’s own admission of strategic mistakes, the turnaround seems to have begun.”