Marks and Spencer’s underlying sales in their clothing and homeware departments have risen for the first time in four years, increasing shares to 6.2% on Thursday morning. Since January, sales have increased by 1.9%, with a 0.7% increase from figures recorded this period last year. In making forecast predictions, analysts had estimated that there would be a 1.1% decline. International sales have been impacted by the economic collapse in Russia, falling by 3.8%.
The unexpected sales boost has been accredited to style director Belinda Earl. Previously head of “classic” retailer Jaeger, she was appointed by M&S boss Marc Bolland in September 2012 to turn the fortunes of the non-grocery departments around. Until now, Ms Earl’s efforts have been scrutinised by the press. Recently there was uproar over a range of clothing featuring prints based around the Natural History Museum. The range was only available to boys and campaigners accused M&S of “classic gender stereotyping”.
“Fashion’s new favourite” however is thought to have caused the recent surge in interest for the womenswear department. Autograph’s £199 suede skirt was photographed during New York Fashion Week and has been heavily featured in magazines and style blogs. Customers can currently register to receive a notification when the skirt arrives in store. Mr Bolland has confidently assured those registered that M&S can deal with the stock level demands. BESI analyst Tony Shiret has issued a statement of caution saying “these are only short-term trading numbers, and we do not believe that today is a key opinion-changing day for M&S”.