M&S boss says food trading off to “a good start”

5th July 2023 | Jack Oliver

The boss of Marks & Spencer has told investors that the retailer’s food business has made “a good start” to the financial year.

Stuart Machin said at the retailer’s virtual annual general meeting (AGM) that food margins had taken a 1.3% hit in the year to April, as M&S opted to lower or freeze a number of food prices instead of keeping up with cost inflation.

“That has given us a good start by the way into this year”, he said, but warned that food prices won’t come down at the same rate they increased.

“I’m slightly worried about deflation, because it’s not going to come down as quick as the inflation”, he added,

“Now we’re tracking that really carefully and trying to pass that on as well to customers.”

He said what while “inflation was a big challenge, the second very close challenge was the B word”, referring to Brexit.

“We don’t like to mention it as we have all moved on, but it added considerable amount of complexity, cost and distraction and we are still trying to find the way through.”

Moving to other parts of the business, Machin told investors that the group’s older cafés would remain open even though they “don’t make any money”, as customers enjoy visiting them.

He added that digital ordering systems had been introduced at M&S’ newer cafés.

M&S came under fire recently for opting to host a fully digital AGM for the fourth year in a row, with investors having complaints about being unable to meet directors face-to-face.

However, M&S chair Archie Norman said the board had “heard the feedback” and are thinking about reverting to physical AGMs.


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