Home Money It’s the Machin and Norman show as M&S makes a strong comeback, says MAGGIE PAGANO

It’s the Machin and Norman show as M&S makes a strong comeback, says MAGGIE PAGANO

0 comment
Stuart Machin, CEO of M&S

One City analyst’s delight was: ‘M&S is back, darling!’ after Marks & Spencer reported a stellar set of full-year results.

And he comes back strong. Not only is the retailer back on the right side of St Michael, it may even be close to reaching paradise.

Profits were up a whopping 58 per cent, sales were up by £1bn, reaching £13bn, and the shares topped the FTSE 100 leader board. Adding a halo to the fabulous figures is a dividend annual 3d, the first in five years.

All credit must go to M&S’s top team: its brilliant chairman Archie Norman and equally brilliant chief executive Stuart Machin, who achieved the impossible: making M&S fashionable again and delivering on what they promised when they unveiled their turnaround strategy.

What’s more, all divisions, from clothing and home goods to food, have now shown 12 consecutive quarters of growth.

Archie Norman, chairman of M&S

Dream team: M&S chief executive Stuart Machin, left, and chairman Archie Norman, right, have led a radical turnaround at the High Street chain.

That is not easy. They have had to deal with High Street turmoil with fierce competitors on the scene such as Zara, Mango and Next, as well as a cost of living crisis that has squeezed income to the bone.

However, the good news is that M&S ​​is slowly returning to its former dominance as one of the UK’s largest clothing retailers.

Getting the right balance between couture and functionality in clothing was never going to be a walk in the park.

Overall the verdict is that the balance is right and at least M&S ​​is no longer boring.

Quite the opposite. Having celebrities like Holly Willoughby and statuesque actress Hannah Waddingham advertising its products has put it back in fashion, while its summer campaign kicked off to the soundtrack of Cyndi Lauper’s hit Girls Just Want To Have Fun.

So they do, and most still buy lingerie at M&S. Last year it sold more than 22 million bras. That’s one in three British women. They buy even more panties: around 70 million pairs come through the doors each year, more than two per second.

And the fun shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Machin believes that there is much more growth to come, that “we are at the beginning of a new M&S”, which has “the wind at its back.”

Where do we go now? Well, Machin is accelerating cost-cutting, taking out £100m more than planned, closing legacy stores and opening new ones, while upgrading online and IT systems.

The only blemish is Ocado, which lost £37m. The joint venture with the online grocer is complicated and there are threats of legal action over the payments. That needs to be fixed or dismantled.

There is another more substantial question. How long will Norman, who turns 70 this month, remain president? After seven years of hard work, he may feel the time is right to step down.

As the archangel behind the M&S revival, investors hope he stays to get them safely to the other side. And let the stock rise even more to reflect that.

Election fever

Rishi Sunak turned out to be a player after all.

It seems as if falling inflation and an optimistic IMF forecast should have persuaded the Prime Minister to drop his election bomb and go all out on July 4.

Better economic figures may have given him hope that voters will now see that the UK has truly turned a corner.

And in that he is right: there is no doubt that the prospects are getting better.

But unless a miracle happens, Sunak is unlikely to be the one to benefit.

An election in July also makes it almost impossible for the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee to cut interest rates in June, as many of us have argued it should, because it would look blatantly political.

Jeremy Hunt must be beating himself up for recently saying it was too early to cut rates.

Leave the obstacle

Anglo American has given rival BHP another week to submit a better offer after rejecting its third proposal.

The offer is conditional on Anglo divesting its platinum and iron ore assets in South Africa, where it employs more than 40,000 people.

If BHP wants to do the deal, this may be the hurdle it needs to overcome to gain control.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them, we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

You may also like