Marc Bolland’s announcement yesterday has certainly generated some negative press towards the departing CEO of a UK institution that remains one of the country’s biggest and diverse retailers. With many offering “sage” advice to the perceived problems which contributed to a dip in the share price following a full day’s trading, let’s not forget that where other big retailers have spectacularly failed over the last six years, Mr Bolland and the M&S team haven’t done so bad.
Whilst GM (General Merchandise) sales may be down 5.8% in the last quarter and across the year, Mr Bolland did what he set out to achieve six years ago; to a save the retailer which had no digital strategy.
This included three core objectives: food, infrastructure and online presence for the retailer. Each and every objective has been completed and exceeded with M&S food up 3.7% despite not being a grocer in the traditional sense or having an online home delivery food service which helps to bolster trading.
The infrastructure has avoided any embarrassing PR disasters, unlike many competitors, by maintaining adequate stock of core lines and delivery timescales, but more importantly it’s the M&S online presence, managed by Bolland appointee Laura Wade-Grey, that the exiting CEO should be proud of and praised for.
The omnichannel experience is exemplified with click and collect accounting for an impressive 62% of online orders, revealed by Bolland himself on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, a statistic which is far higher than many rivals. It accounted for only 17.7% of the industry’s orders in 2014 and is forecasted to rise by 20% in 2015, far below what M&S has managed to actually achieve in 2015.
M&S has successfully created an omnichannel experience which has embraced a digital platform as not merely an add on, but a standalone experience which lends itself neatly to the M&S customer profile, predicted to be an older customer, to convert them into a satisfied online shopper.
This was perhaps facilitated by avoiding the same levy to customers as main rival John Lewis implemented in 2015, adding a £2 click-and-collect charge on purchases costing less than £30, with Tesco recently following the same course. Many users have complained about the change, and let’s also not ignore that there were a few issues surrounding stability and data protection.
However it can’t be ignored that as an e-commerce site which is easy to navigate and use across any device, M&S has created a true omnichannel experience. Offering a consistent brand identity for consumers and a digital platform which works, sales were up 20.9% over the festive period and served to drive footfall into traditional retail, no doubt to the benefit of other retailers and UK plc.