Marks and Spencer has turned out to be this 12 months’s shock Christmas package deal.
In a festive season the place most of our huge retailers did higher than anticipated, M&S stood out, lastly shrugging off its clothes gross sales hoodoo.
Clothes gross sales have been in decline – and infrequently sharp decline – for the previous 5 years, excluding one constructive quarter two years in the past.
Over Christmas, nevertheless, like-for-like gross sales have been up 2.three%, though the corporate was fast to level out that 1.5% of that was all the way down to how Christmas fell, which meant there have been 5 further buying and selling days in comparison with the related interval a 12 months earlier.
Even so, a zero.eight% enhance is to not be sneezed at, and is proof maybe that the back-to-basics reforms of chief govt Steve Rowe, which embody a whole lot of job losses at head workplace and the closure of many of the worldwide shops, is having some impact.
One good quarter would not make a revival, however a halt to the seemingly inexorable decline will give shareholders encouragement.
Retail analysts say Mr Rowe’s system – a focus on the fundamentals – is a welcome distinction to the current previous, the place administration launched eye-catching vogue and made mis-steps on-line.
The actual take a look at can be on the subsequent quarterly replace, the place the calendar is in opposition to Mr Rowe – simply as he benefited at Christmas, he misses out subsequent time.
If he can flip in one other constructive quantity on clothes, there can be substance to the M&S revival.
Elsewhere, there was excellent news tempered with warning in regards to the coming 12 months.
This was finest expressed on the John Lewis Partnership, which reported like for like gross sales development of slightly below three% at each the division retailer chain and the grocery enterprise, Waitrose.
Income for the complete 12 months are more likely to be up, however Sir Charlie Mayfield, the partnership’s chairman, took the weird step of warning employees their bonuses can be smaller than final 12 months.
The culprits? The stress attributable to a weaker pound and the necessity to make investments closely in new merchandise.