Investors are likely to press the pause button on Marks & Spencer for the time being. The retailer’s first-quarter statement came in much as expected.

Investors are likely to press the pause button on Marks & Spencer for the time being.

The retailer’s first-quarter statement came in much as expected. Although it was the eighth consecutive quarter of declining like-for-like sales at the key general merchandise division, the fall of 1.6% was a marked improvement on the dreadful 6.8% slide in last year’s comparable period.

Now all eyes turn to the autumn fashion range, on which the hopes and potentially the future of chief executive Marc Bolland hang. The new lines will start to go into stores on July 25.

The lines, put together by style director Belinda Earl, got a good write-up from the consumer fashion press.

Just as important though was the confidence exuded when the range was unveiled by Earl and general merchandise supremo John Dixon in their clothing strategy - which Dixon condensed to a single page of A4, bringing a greater sense of clarity and purpose.

After a good run, the M&S share price has come back on profit taking. There will be a bit of a wait until any change in M&S’s fortunes starts to be discernible. Until then shareholders will stop for breath.

Swann’s travels

After being linked with a variety of top retail roles, former WHSmith boss Kate Swann surprised when she joined SSP as chief executive.

The appointment makes perfect sense. SSP, which runs franchised stores including M&S Simply Food in travel hubs such as airports and railway stations, will benefit from Swann’s expertise with such locations at WHSmith.

WHSmith’s travel division is seen as the retailer’s growth motor and there has frequently been speculation about a spin-off. Would it be mischievous to wonder whether private equity-backed SSP might itself be a potential bidder for WHSmith’s travel arm?