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1000’s of M&S workers get £10,000 in shares after sturdy buying and selling interval

Employees at Marks & Spencer are set to profit from bumper payouts of hundreds of kilos below its share save scheme because the excessive road stalwart reaps the rewards of its turnaround plan and toasts its “finest ever Christmas”.

The FTSE 100 retailer mentioned that greater than 9,200 workers — most of them customer support assistants — who had put a typical £150 a month into its 2020 share save scheme would acquire over £10,000 when it pays out on February 1.

The announcement got here alongside a Christmas buying and selling replace that exposed a efficiency that was higher than anticipated as consumers turned to M&S for groceries and clothes.

Total like-for-like gross sales on the retailer rose by a file 8.1 per cent within the 13 weeks to December 30, in contrast with the identical interval in 2022. It marked an eleventh successive quarter of gross sales progress at M&S. Meals gross sales elevated by a file 9.9 per cent within the 13 weeks, beating market expectations, as shoppers more and more used M&S for “extra of their full store”.

Stuart Machin, the corporate’s chief govt, mentioned there had been double-digit progress in gross sales of salads, vegetables and fruit in contrast with the earlier Christmas: “We by no means was identified well-known for core grocery, however really our grocery gross sales had been up 24 per cent on final 12 months and our family core gadgets had been up 30-plus per cent on final 12 months. Our meals enterprise is turning into a unique meals enterprise. It’s not only for Christmas.”

He mentioned M&S had taken share from “a number of the competitors”, together with Waitrose, its closest rival, and added that “we predict we are able to acquire share from the market general”. M&S and Waitrose every had a 3.8 per cent share of the grocery market within the 12 weeks to December 30, based on Nielsen IQ, the market researcher. That was an enchancment for M&S from a 12 months earlier, when its slice of the market was 3.7 per cent, whereas Waitrose’s share fell from 3.9 per cent.

Demand for brand spanking new Christmas merchandise was sturdy, up by 14 per cent in contrast with the earlier 12 months. It offered 725,000 “snowy” evening projector tins and 723,000 shortbread light-up tins. Document gross sales of cranberry sauce and “Christmas lotions” additionally helped to drive general progress.

Gross sales in its clothes and residential enterprise rose by 4.8 per cent, beating expectations of a 2.8 per cent rise, with womenswear gross sales significantly sturdy as the corporate improved its model credentials. The retailer offered greater than 150,000 sequin merchandise. Bestsellers included its £29.50 black sequin jumper, with 23,000 offered, and £55 sequin elasticated waist trousers, with 19,000 offered.

Machin, 53, mentioned the expansion in clothes was partly a results of providing fewer reductions. “We didn’t wish to low cost as a result of our dedication is to not put costs up,” he mentioned. “We needed to stay to our worth pricing. What we’re doing is ensuring we worth proper first time, so it’s a really completely different technique [from other retailers].”

The sturdy Christmas buying and selling replace marks the newest signal of the turnaround going down below Machin, Katie Bickerstaffe, 56, his co-chief govt, and Archie Norman, 69, the chairman. M&S, which has greater than a thousand outlets in Britain, staged a dramatic return to the FTSE 100 share index after 4 years final summer season. The 140-year-old retailer, a founding member of the index that includes Britain’s publicly quoted firms, was demoted to the mid-cap FTSE 250 in 2019 after coming below stress from on-line competitors and amid stalling progress from its groceries enterprise.

Its administrators have been attempting to construct a extra resilient enterprise after a number of a long time of false dawns and numerous iterations of a “repair the fundamentals technique”. They’ve centered on the standard and worth of its clothes and meals, heavy funding in expertise and ecommerce and shutting dozens of bigger outlets, whereas refurbishing others.

The revival has been most dramatic in clothes, which has typically been a supply of woe for the retailer. The style workforce, together with Maddy Evans, the womenswear director, in addition to Richard Value, the clothes and residential director, has been celebrated for bringing the British establishment again to life.

Machin mentioned that there was extra to do to revive the enterprise, together with at Ocado Retail, its three way partnership with Ocado Group, which has been struggling to maintain up momentum for the reason that on-line growth in the course of the pandemic.

The M&S boss mentioned the corporate had been “doubling down and supporting the Ocado reset” with Hannah Gibson, the Ocado Retail chief govt. He mentioned 90 per cent of the M&S vary was now on the Ocado platform and that the partnership was “very sturdy”, however declined to touch upon whether or not the ultimate instalment of £190.7 million from the three way partnership due by August this 12 months can be paid. Ocado Group will concern its personal Christmas buying and selling replace subsequent week.

Machin sounded a notice of warning over financial uncertainty and elevated prices from increased wages and enterprise charges. When requested if the retailer was being overly cautious, he mentioned it was higher to be “cautious and to not over-promise. M&S has a historical past of over-promising and under-delivering after which inconsistency.”

He mentioned that provides of its merchandise may very well be delayed if disruption to delivery within the Crimson Sea continued. “We’re acutely aware of the prices and in addition extra importantly the provision of latest ranges,” he mentioned. “We haven’t skilled that but, however we’re anticipating perhaps some slight delays in newness in February and March. That’s actually clothes and residential and we don’t count on our meals enterprise to be affected by it.”

He mentioned the group had entered 2024 “with a spring in our step” and was assured that outcomes for the 12 months can be “in step with market expectations”. Analysts expect full-year earnings earlier than tax of £667 million, in contrast with £482.0 million final 12 months and £522.9 million the 12 months earlier than.

Shares in M&S, which have risen by about 80 per cent over the previous 12 months, fell by 14½p, or 5.2 per cent, to 263¼p, a decline blamed by some analysts on traders’ profit-taking and by others on the corporate’s cautionary outlook.