21 May 2008, 17:15 PM
  • Marks & Spencer is to trial an offering of some 350 branded products at 19 stores for the first time in its history.

Unveiling the move this morning, alongside M&S’s annual results, chief executive, Sir Stuart Rose, said the trial goods would represent around seven percent of the stores’ product range. “This will enable customers to buy ‘must have’ products such as Marmite, Heinz Tomato Ketchy, household products and toiletries.

“The trial aims to offer customers greater convenience but not to change the unique positioning of the M&S brand in food.” The trial stores are currently on Tyneside and Teesside.

M&S’s financial statement showed UK sales for the year to 29 March 2008 down by 0.5% on a like-for-like basis. Like-for-like food sales were down by 0.4% and general merchandise down by 0.5%. But overall sales rose by 5.1%, driven by a 4.2% increase in the UK and 16.8% growth overseas. And profits – up by 4.3% – broke through the £1bn barrier for the first time.

Mr Rose explained, “We expect market conditions to remain difficult for the foreseeable future and are managing our business accordingly. Tight stock control and management of costs are a priority.”

On food, Mr Rose said, “While our food business continues to extend its reach and grow its customer base, there remains much to do.”

M&S aims to increase its share of the food market to five percent from its current 4.3%. It has laid out its objectives as continuing to open more stores, with more than 70 Simply Food convenience stores planned this year, enhancing products and services in its largest stores to give “a truly broad shopping experience” and ensure everyday key product lines offer better value

Mr Rose added that Marks & Spencer had already cut prices on more than 120 key product lines in March “without any compromise on quality.”