Online sales now account for 34.4% of M&S apparel and home sales

Online apparel and home sales took off in 2021 for Marks & Spencer (M&S), according to its half-year results.

Compared to the 26 weeks to September 28, 2019, M&S found in the six months to October 2, 2021 that while overall apparel and home sales were down 1%, the category’s online sales were up. by 60.8%, now representing a total of 34.4% of the clothing and home goods retailer’s sales.

The retailer opted to make comparisons to its pre-Covid half-year results because the retailer claimed the coronavirus pandemic makes the comparison with the same period of the previous year “less meaningful”.

Overall, the last two years have seen online growth as a channel for the retailer, with active online customers rising to 9.6 million.

Highlighting some of the challenges all retailers will face, Steve Rowe, M&S Group Managing Director, said: “Given M&S’s history, we have made it clear that we are not going to overstate our progress. Unpacking the numbers is not a linear exercise and we’ve called the headwinds of the Covid rebound, as well as the pandemic, supply chain and Brexit headwinds, some of which will continue into next year .

“But, thanks to the hard work of our colleagues, it is clear that the underlying performance is improving, with our core businesses making significant gains in market share and customer perception. ‘long-term change is beginning to be reflected in our performance.

Part of the reason for M&S’ strong growth online for clothing is the retailer’s MS2 project, launched earlier in the year to allow customers to buy selected non-M&S brands through M&S.com.

The retailer said MS2 had already boosted online growth and customer loyalty, with the brand noting that its acquisition and the digital relaunch of fashion brand Jaeger had received “an encouraging early response from customers”.

It’s no surprise that M&S ​​said in-store sales were down 17.6% from the six months ending September 28, 2019 – when consumers stayed home due to lockdowns at the start of the pandemic , there has been an increase in online sales for various markets. segments as people settled into past lives mostly at home.

While food sales increased 10.4% for M&S in the six months ending October 2, 2021 compared to 2019, regional differences were apparent as a result of the pandemic, with M&S saying product sales in retail parks was up 23.3%, while downtown food sales in central stores fell 18.4% from two years ago.

But despite poor store sales performance, M&S recorded a pre-tax profit of £187.3m for the six months to October 2, 2021, an improvement on the loss of £87.6m at the same time last year.

Regarding its digital transformation, the retailer said it was now moving from “setting the basics” to the next phase, and predicted sustained demand due to the “rebound” from the pandemic and “improving customer perception” of the brand.

But the retailer acknowledged that mounting cost pressures will make it more important to work on group productivity plans, store redesign and technology investments over the next year.

These results are not unusual for the retailer – M&S has been undergoing a digital transformation for many years after admitting that online orders are lagging behind competitors.

When the company reported declining profits in 2019, the same trend occurred – apparel and home revenues fell while website traffic increased and food sales “outperformed the market”.

In its second half of fiscal 2021 results, M&S said Ocado Retail had opened three more central fulfillment centers and the retailer expects to reach capacity to process around 700,000 orders per week.

The second half of 2020 saw M&S and Ocado enter the first week of their online delivery partnership, allowing customers to order M&S food through the Ocado platform as part of a £750m deal sterling which saw M&S take over half of Ocado UK’s retail business.


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David A. Albanese