Retailer sorts out its closet
Improved product, buying, pricing and marketing helped Marks & Spencer boost the performance of its key clothing offer during the first half of the year.

The retailer is also to retain the services of mercurial fashion genius George Davies. He will continue to run Per Una until the end of June 2006, when he becomes two-day-a-week chairman of the star brand.

Although clothing sales fell by 4.9 per cent over the period, they edged ahead by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter - a big improvement on the 9.2 per cent decline in the first quarter.

M&S has opened sourcing offices in Hong Kong, Turkey, India and Bangladesh, which have both improved efficiencies and allowed the latest fashion trends to reach shops more quickly.

The introduction of keener opening price points helped M&S 'restore competitiveness' and was complemented by the September womenswear TV advertising campaign, 'encouraging customers into store and driving improving perceptions on styling and the brand'.

However, there was a shake-up of children's clothing. Childrenswear business unit director Fiona Holmes is to leave the business and the division is being reorganised. Boyswear, schoolwear and nightwear will fall under the remit of the menswear team. Girlswear and babywear will be managed by womenswear.