Marks & Spencer’s results were, like some of its clothing collections, a bit of a mixed bag.

Marks & Spencer’s results were, like some of its clothing collections, a bit of a mixed bag.

For every item that would catch the eye of a potential buyer there was another of little appeal. So while food did well, the performance of general merchandise as expected was poor.

While investment in multichannel delivered growth, the dual-running costs of the new Castle Donington ecommerce fulfilment centre are unwelcome.

And while margins are expected to rise in the current year following an improvement last year, operating costs are anticipated to climb.

The figures came hot on the heels of the unveiling last week of the autumn/winter collection that’s seen as crucial to a turnaround in apparel and is likely to influence the future of chief executive Marc Bolland.

The range, created under the leadership of style director Belinda Earl, generally seemed to go down well among the fashionistas and the City will look for evidence of its sales success after it hits stores in July. But even if it flies off the shelves, M&S’s fortunes will not be restored fast.

The question then is whether you buy into Bolland’s strategy. It stacks up intellectually, but there’s no disguising that so far there has been disappointment at how M&S’s fashion division has fared against rivals such as Next and John Lewis.

It’s the direction of travel that matters, Bolland argues. That’s true. And some analysts think the direction is right.

Shore Capital for instance, a buyer of M&S, expects a return to general merchandise like-for-like growth this year.

But the length of time taken to reach the destination and the mode of transport also matter. As essential as a coherent overarching strategy is skill in execution and there is more to do on that front.

The right treatment of the new clothing ranges in store and online will have an impact on performance just as much as the style decisions made by Earl. The strategy makes sense but it’s the implementation that matters.