Not many Marks for the Rose Report

May 19, 2009

REUTERS— Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

If a company’s health can be judged by the clarity of the statements it makes, Marks & Spencer is sick indeed. Its long, comprehensive and in parts incomprehensible statement with Tuesday’s figures is stuffed with jargon, phrases designed to cheer up the troops, while some key news is glossed over.

The dividend is not cut, but merely “rebased”, to provide “a stronger foundation for moving forward”. The group is “the only retailer not benefitting from food inflation”, which is one way of explaining away a margin squeeze.

The unexpected departure of Carl Leaver, considered one of M&S’s rising stars, is because “reverting to the key role of driving international does not fit his career aspirations.”

Ian Dyson, finance director and chief executive-presumptive, is invited to head a “change programme” under the banner “2020 – Doing the Right Thing”. If he doesn’t do the right things, he’ll be gone long before 2020.

An unspoken theme runs through the statement; all this frenetic activity conceals the lurking suspicion that Stuart Rose, now chairman as well as chief executive, doesn’t really know how to restore this company to its pre-eminent position in the hearts and purses of Britain’s shoppers.

We’re promised more M&S white goods, M&S Energy, M&S Direct, and a “re-invigorated brand communication”.

At the same time there will be expansion in China, India and Europe. It’s a lot to ask of the management of any business, let alone one which has lost ground and faces such formidable competitors.

Retailing is about making the customer feel good, and if the executives can convey an upbeat impression, perhaps it will filter through to the shop floor. Still, a little more contrition for the brutal 33 percent “rebasing” of the dividend (after raising it by 23 percent last year) might have lightened the gloom for the shareholders.


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I trust M&S,as a matter of fact I increased my holding.
Better than some companies I trusted in my ISA and the stupid pratt,in the commons who promotes tax free and expences on top for me.
If only you can get out when the pratts,spent you Blood earned taxes,and come to say they done you a favor,your job is gone.The isa dimminished and the benefit you paid for is up in smoke.
At least Mr Rose done well to maintain the share price,and still a strong going concern,Yes I am proud to see a proud chairman,who says we need new ideas to go foward and this requires good focus and forsight,I took M&S through 2008/9 and still investing,what are you asking for Blood,surely I see an increase in next year div,and thanks M&S as my pension savings are in the right
Hands,and hopefully the critics will let you carry on with the good job.robert

Posted by robert buhagiar | Report as abusive

Neil I find that you think very little of the people who actually read the M&S results, I’m surprised you think they can read at all.
All the examples you provide are very clear, management may have wrapped up the words in a pretty pink bow but the facts are still there. I for one am able to recognise that by rebasing a dividend, the dividend is being reduced. This is all part and parcel of the spin that all management put on their results. I read a lot worse in the Debenhams interims and dare I mention the Sportsdirect results.

Posted by Bradley Crook | Report as abusive

Turn back the pages to Rose preparing a rival retailer (arcadia) for an Anglo-Icelandic takeover ignoring constant pressure from an ever tactful Green, all the while multiplying Arcadia’s value. Rose had the last laugh then in showing that Green paid more than was required. This was a ‘sharp’ Rose, dynamic and he certainly had my confidence; but I am waiting for the move that will push M&S back into a definite positive light. There are private equity firms still sitting on enough capital and therefore leverage to swallow and regurgitate a more attractive M&S, probably not by heavily investing in international development but innovative housekeeping (of course in the way PE firms manage businesses with good in mind for all involved and not just themselves, paying adequate tax and reducing individual carry..…..) and similar methods which should be adopted in “times like these”.

Posted by Dominic | Report as abusive