Wednesday 14 November 2018

High street blues: M&S blames sales slump on 'difficult' Irish market

Sarah Morrissey models clothes from the Marks & Spencer Autumn Winter 2018 collection. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Sarah Morrissey models clothes from the Marks & Spencer Autumn Winter 2018 collection. Photo: Kieran Harnett

Retailer Marks & Spencer has described trading conditions in the Republic of Ireland as "difficult".

The group also warned of a bleak outlook for sales growth overall as it reported a decline in half-year revenue, but surprised the market with a higher profit figure.

Revenue at the group dropped by 3.1pc to £4.96bn, reflecting declining sales in the food, clothing and home divisions.

In an interim trading update, the UK retailer said a decline in revenue in its international arm reflected "difficult trading in the Republic of Ireland, which was largely offset by continued growth in India" and other markets.

The comment is out of keeping with recent retail trends, where traditional retailing in Ireland has proven more resilient than the UK. M&S said it does not expect much improvement in sales in the near future, as it deals with "the growth of online competition and the march of the discounters".

"Therefore, as we embark on the difficult early stages of transformation, we are expecting little improvement in sales trajectory," the retailer said.

The company has already announced plans to close around 100 stores in the UK, as well as exiting some international markets, but said "significant further change" is required.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said M&S needs to have a "constant churn" of locations to ensure its store portfolio is fit for purpose.

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