Belfast Telegraph

It will take a lot more suede skirts to keep up sales momentum

By Donald McFetridge

It's always encouraging to hear good news about one of the most iconic bellwethers of the retail world, and particularly good to hear it after a period of difficult trading in extremely testing market conditions.

Although the company has been trading in Northern Ireland for many decades, it still has a very limited store portfolio here.

Yet it remains one of the paragons of retail excellence in the region with shoppers claiming to be thrilled with their epicurean delights.

However, in spite of yesterday's news about their renewed success in clothing (albeit marginal), there is still a lot of work to be done in the fashion design department.

The question to which everyone now wants an answer is this: Has Marks & Spencer finally turned the corner? I'm not sure. General merchandise has always been a "thorn in the flesh" for M&S and, in spite of a small (but still significant) improvement in their clothing ranges, it's not all going to be plain sailing. Far from it.

During a visit to their new head office in Paddington, London, last month there seemed to be a spirit of fresh hope in the air with optimistic new suppliers waiting eagerly in reception for their appointments with buyers. The lift doors were constantly opening to receive new hopefuls and closing on the backs of those who had been rejected. No matter what the results of those appointments were, it will still take an awful lot of those suede skirts to fly off the shelves if M&S is to keep up the trading momentum in future quarters.

Donald McFetridge is a retail expert at Ulster University

Belfast Telegraph

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