Over the last 12 months market conditions were challenging and highly promotional. We protected margins, with targeted offers that demonstrated great value. However, we retained the flexibility to respond to market conditions, with compelling online and category promotions.
Early in the financial year, our performance was impacted by merchandising issues. We improved our processes, tightened stock management and changed the way we allocate stock to stores. We also aligned our buying procedures more closely with our marketing activity – delivering record availability on advertised lines. In the autumn, we restructured the business, creating four business units with realigned responsibilities and greater accountability. Combining externally sourced talent with proven M&S expertise, the new leadership team has already made operational improvements and has focused its time on really understanding what our customers want from M&S.
Responding to customer feedback, we started to reassert our quality credentials, focusing initially on upgrading the products we’re famous for. Our classic £6 white tee shirt benefited from improved styling, better fabric and superior finishing, resulting a sales uplift of 15%. We want customers to be confident that regardless of fabric, cut or sub-brand, they will find great fitting styles. So this year we reduced the number of block sizes used, creating more consistent sizing across all our ranges.
2012/13 was a challenging year for Womenswear, which nevertheless delivered good performance in individual categories. We bought with authority into our advertised lines, selling over 46,000 of our featured M&S Woman £49.50 Military Coat.
We bought with greater confidence into the seasons’ key trends and customers enjoyed our interpretations. We sold over 115,000 items from the 60s-inspired Monochrome trend and almost 350,000 pieces from our feminine, pastel Dolls House collection.
We launched Twiggy for M&S Woman in April. Offering versatile, flattering fashion and attention to detail, it received a positive reaction from customers.
Our Autograph range exemplifies the best of M&S, with designer-inspired sophistication and outstanding quality. The range performed strongly this year with sales up 4%. Our Indigo Collection of casual, easy-to-wear outfits performed well and comfortably sits as our second biggest brand behind per una.
In March we appointed fashion expert Hilary Alexander as Fashion Consultant to per una. Her involvement includes ‘Hilary’s Edit’: a selection of key seasonal outfits and an ‘Ask Hilary’ column on our website addressing customers’ fashion dilemmas.
Better editing of womenswear helped strengthen the identity of our sub-brands and reinforce our fashion credentials. Our new store format features more statement mannequin displays, and our online Style Edit (see Multi-channel) offers easy-to-follow outfit inspiration.
Lingerie & Beauty
We continue to lead the UK market in lingerie. Our customers shop with us for everyday essentials, underwear solutions and special occasion glamour. Working in partnership with our world class suppliers we introduced compelling value, quality and style for all customers. We saw strong sales of our two pack Limited Collection bras at £16 and our French-designed, vintage- inspired Autograph lace collection at £22.50. Innovation remains a key feature of M&S Lingerie. Successes include the extension of our Heatgen™ Thermal range, up 33% and our Perfect Fit Bra, up 72%.
The merchandising teams focused on improving availability and reducing lead times, enabling us to improve performance in areas such as sports bras, up 19% and dressing gowns, up 12%.
We remain the UK’s number one menswear retailer and saw strong sales in heritage departments such as coats and outerwear, up 14% and nightwear up 3%. Customers enjoyed our interpretation of the British heritage trend and formal jacket sales rose 6%. Improved style helped us strengthen our position in growth areas, with footwear and accessories sales up 2%. M&S is renowned for its tailoring and we have a suit for every age and budget – from our great value £99 suit to our Savile Row Inspired range.
Parents turn to M&S for great value kidswear they can trust. We experienced our best ever year in schoolwear, selling 8.4 million items, up 8% on last year. Independent tests rated our schoolwear as the best quality on the high street. With family celebrations a priority for customers, we offered great value on our occasion wear. Our Spring 20% off promotion proved popular ahead of the wedding season, with sales of boys’ suits and girls’ bridesmaid dresses up 33%.
Despite the static housing market furniture sales rose 2%, driven partly by improved quality and faster delivery times on a number of key lines.
In August we launched our new in-store Home concept, which transformed the way we showcase our products. It also embraces technology to offer greater choice and make it easier to shop our ranges. The new concept is now in 33 stores and they are performing well, 10% ahead of non-concept stores.