Twenty-four minutes: that’s how long one of Marks & Spencer’s legion of female shoppers typically spends in the general merchandise section.

Twenty-four minutes: that’s how long one of Marks & Spencer’s legion of female shoppers typically spends in the general merchandise section.

Paradoxically, it’s both a long and short time.

Compared with some stores where customers spend hours, it’s all too brief. But in the era of Amazon one-click, when shoppers can search for and buy products in a couple of minutes, it’s testament to the retailer’s appeal that customers are devoting precious time to browsing its stores.

Time is an ever more valuable commodity on which retailers as well as customers place a premium. As M&S recognises, that limited window is the opportunity to engage shoppers and make the sale.

M&S’s investment in training womenswear staff to offer better advice and service, along with revamping womenswear departments, gives the retailer a chance to maximise sales as the golden quarter nears.

A seeming lightening of economic conditions is good news for the industry, but retailers cannot relax. The downturn led to the disappearance from high streets and retail parks of weak businesses. The result, though, is that many of those remaining are at the top of their game. Christmas will accordingly be hard fought.

Whether it is operational efficiency, speed of multichannel fulfilment or time spent making the customer feel they are the centre of a retailer’s universe, these vital last few months of the year will be all about - to borrow a phrase from Tesco - making moments matter.