M&S prepares for food fight as supermarket rivals go posh

M&S chief exec Steve Rowe admitted that it needed to improve its pricing

M&S chief exec Steve Rowe admitted that it needed to improve its pricing

M&S chief exec Steve Rowe admitted that it needed to improve its pricing

Marks & Spencer was left battling for customers over Christmas as rivals upped their game on premium products.

The department store has faced stiff competition from supermarkets whose more expensive lines have been improved recently, while on basic produce it is under threat from discounters.

M&S chief executive Steve Rowe admitted that it needed to improve its pricing for products such as brussels sprouts and other fresh vegetables, as food sales slumped 0.4 per cent over the festive period.

He said: ‘What we’re seeing is that on some of the more value products, where it’s difficult to see the M&S plus, we’ve got to get a bit sharper on prices.’

Shares were down by 7 per cent yesterday after its seasonal update, in which it also reported a 2.8 per cent drop in clothing and homeware.

The retailer is in the middle of a radical overhaul under Rowe. 

But Bryan Roberts, a director at retail analysts TCC Global, said rivals were beating M&S on innovation and pricing.

‘It is within food that many have closed the gap on M&S while also putting its prices in sharp relief,’ he said.

While M&S’s performance in the 13 weeks to December 30 was better than expected, overall sales were down 1.4 per cent.

Rowe said he was certain that clothing sales would have been up if it were not for warmer weather in October.

He also defended his five-year turnaround plan.

‘We’re very clear, we’ve got lots to do and this is not going to be a short burn,’ he said. 

‘So anyone who thinks there’s going to be results in two minutes is mistaken.’

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