Rose said that, historically, the retailer had an erratic pricing strategy that confused shoppers. 'We are not a price house, we are a value house. However, we have an inconsistent pricing policy that leads people to think we are not good value,' he said.
He added that M&S needed to match competitors' price points, rather than being 'there or thereabouts'. He pledged to take 'strategic decisions' to align entry prices with retailers such as Next and Debenhams.
'We must have a consistent value and entry price architecture throughout,' said Rose. 'Where they are at opening price X, we will be at X.'
M&S executive director Charles Wilson said that M&S's margins were more uniform than those of most clothing retailers across categories, and said the business was looking at greater flexibility to strike a better value/price equation.
Rose said he sat down with new womenswear director Kate Bostock and drew up a hit list to tackle range deficiencies. The first fruits of this effort include M&S-branded classic and plus-size ranges, which will arrive at stores in February next year. Petite and maternity collections will follow in Easter and autumn next year respectively.
Following Rose's decision to streamline the board, buying and merchandising directors will report to him directly. To further improve internal disciplines, Rose is taking a leaf out of Arcadia boss Philip Green's book by setting up an academy. The in-house buying school is expected to start lessons in January.
However, while Rose was addressing housekeeping matters, competitors took market share across all categories during the interim period. The retailer posted its fourth consecutive quarter of falling sales and Rose said it would be 2005/2006 before the business returned to growth.
Sir David Sieff, scion of one of the M&S founding dynasties, backed Rose and urged the City to give him time to effect a turnaround. He also supported the minimalist board structure. 'We were always tempted to reduce the size of the board,' said Sieff. 'There is no reason why they can't increase it again as the business develops. However, in the short-term they've got to get it right and get it moving very, very fast.'
However, Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Whitehead noted that he remained 'hungry for evidence' that sales trends will turn next year.
He believed problems had been pinpointed, but wondered if they were correctable in such a competitive arena. 'When we see product in stores in spring we will have a much better idea,' he said.
RW Baird analyst Paul Smiddy was perplexed by the leaderless food business.
'It seems to us that the management of the food business has been in almost constant flux for the past five years. Neither Justin King nor (Maurice) Helfgott distinguished themselves in the role,' he said.
Guy Farrant provisionally holds the post of interim director of food, but Rose said he wants to shop around before making a final decision.
Rose plans to cut prices on up to 200 lines, including staples such as milk, chicken and mincemeat
With the countdown to Christmas now under way, Rose was bullish. 'There is a heck of a lot to play for and I am confident we will have a robust Christmas,' he said.
For more on M&S visit www.retail-week.com
ROSE'S LEAN, MEAN MANAGEMENT TEAM
Chief executive - Stuart Rose
Executive director, logistics, property and IT - Charles Wilson
Finance director - Alison Reed (until a replacement is found)
THE TRADING TEAM
Womenswear director - Kate Bostock
Lingerie and beauty director - Matt Hudson
Menswear director - Andrew Skinner
Childrenswear director - Fiona Holmes
Interim director of home - Steve Rowe
Food trading director and interim director of food - Guy Farrant
General merchandise planning director - Andrew Moore
Retail director - Anthony Thompson
OUT Executive director, menswear, childrenswear and home - Maurice Helfgott
Executive director, retail, international and franchises - Mark McKeon
M&S Money chief executive - Laurel Powers-Freeling
Human resources director - Jean Tomlin
Business unit director, home - Jack Paterson
M&S INTERIM RESULTS (26 WEEKS TO OCTOBER 2)
Group sales up 0.9 per cent
UK retail sales down 0.4 per cent to£3.3 billion
Like-for-like sales down 4 per cent
International retail sales up 1.4 per cent
Group profit before tax and exceptionals£292.7 million.