Marks & Spencer has distributed 800,000 discount vouchers offering 20 per cent off clothing, food and homewares this weekend as the retailer attempts to drive sales in the final weeks of its financial year, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph.

More than 70,000 M&S staff, along with thousands of pensioners, have been sent a dozen vouchers to distribute among family and friends. The move comes just weeks after the end of the retailer’s January Sale.

The giveaway is likely to spark further questions about current trading at M&S and increase City concerns that the retailer is sitting on piles of unsold stock after disappointing Christmas trading. However, an M&S spokeswoman said: “We have tested it before on a regional basis. It has been in the pipeline for some time. Offers like these are common.”

Pali international analyst Nick Bubb said: “M&S denies that there is anything unusual in this, but this will revive concerns that its trading has remained disappointing since Christmas – notwithstanding the strong overall BRC Retail Sales for January.”

He added: “It may explain why M&S still seems confident of meeting profit expectations for the year ending in March of just under£1 billion: could it be that the staff bonus will be completely cut this year? Stuart Rose has been dropping hints in the press to that effect and it was a big cost last year (£91 million, just over 10 per cent of the wage bill): we had assumed it would be halved to about£47 million, but M&S may be even less generous, while the cost of voucher promotions is never particularly huge.”