Making sense of the past seven days
The Stuart Rose Teflon effect was evident after Marks & Spencer posted its first-quarter numbers.

By Rose's own admission, the performance was 'pretty grim'. The business hacks obviously thought so and the headlines portrayed M&S as a bit of a turkey rather than the succulent Oakham chicken featured in the famous ads.

However, despite a vertiginous 11.2 per cent plunge in general merchandise like-for-likes, the stock rose. Why?

By rights, such a precipitous decline should have been mirrored by a share price tailspin. In fact - almost in spite of themselves - many in the City were wooed by a retail story behind the stark numbers.

Full-price general merchandise sales were only down 2.4 per cent and Rose managed to hold off going on Sale until yesterday. And, when the Sale began, it was with 40 per cent less stock than last year.

As Rose pointed out on Wednesday, the general merchandise figures 'reflect the significant change in our trading stance compared with this time last year, when our priority was to clear overstocks. This was achieved through deeper markdowns and extended sale periods. This boosted sales figures, but impacted profitability.'

Rose reiterated that his focus now is on 'full-price profitable sales' and 'improving financial performance through margin, cost and markdown management'.

The trading update prompted Deutsche Bank to proclaim: 'The recovery has started.' Analysts there say that M&S is 'on target to deliver its plan of increasing the clothing gross margin by an impressive 500 basis points'.

Who knows whether Rose can ever return M&S to its glory days. Perhaps the days of£1 billion profits will never return. But it remains as true today as it was when Rose was parachuted in last year that if he can't deliver a decent recovery, who can? After all, even Philip Green now seems relieved not to have the headache that is M&S.

Thanks to Sainsbury's for providing a bit of light relief in what was such a depressing week. The grocer is running cheeky ads in the press targeting the 1,400 staff unceremoniously given the boot by Asda about 10 days ago.

The ads show a closed door in Asda green and a host of open doors in JS orange. Only a year ago, the idea of JS being able to run a recruitment campaign targeting Asda people - even sacked ones - would have been greeted by guffaws in Leeds. Today, as Sainsbury's market share edges ever upwards and Asda's slips back, the laughter is all at Holborn.

Probably few would argue with Asda boss Andy Bond's decision to cut staff numbers, but the way the axe was swung - loyal staff frogmarched out the door - did little to help Asda's image.

One former Asda director - there are rather a lot of them these days, aren't there - told me he thought the way the whole thing was handled was 'Wal-Martish and programmatic'. After all Asda's crowing about 'colleagues', it left a bad taste. Now, at least some of those ex-colleagues will be determined to make life taste better for JS. And it won't just be business, it will be personal.