Marks & Spencer has reported a 3.9% fall in underlying annual profit to £623m, the third consecutive year its profits have fallen.
Group sales rose by 2.7% to £10.3bn in the year to 29 March 2014.
Like-for-like UK food sales increased by 1.7% but general merchandise fell 1.4%.
Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO of retail and shopper marketing agency, Savvy Marketing, said: “It’s not surprising that profits are down as the battle over clothing hasn’t been won – do M&S really know who their customer is anymore and what her life is about? There is some great product but finding it requires real determination and a woman who is prepared to spend – with leather jackets at over £200 and the Vogue featured beach cover up at £35 it’s a leap of faith that’s needed and a full purse.
“Principally where M&S is falling down is shopping experience. It’s broad target shopper base and substantial SKU count means, while there is something for everyone in-store – or indeed online – finding what’s right for you can still be a challenge. Searches online or using in-store terminals lack personalisation, too often returning an overwhelming number of search results. In-store, particularly in larger stores, shopping across sub-brands can be a frustrating experience, with shoppers often expected to navigate multiple floors with little guidance in their quest to find the perfect outfit.
“M&S was also late to join the multi-channel party. Granted, the retailer has been trading online successfully for many years, but it has only recently taken complete control of its dot com platform. As a result it has made relatively small steps forward while the likes of John Lewis and Next have leaped forward, forging themselves as multichannel leaders.
“This is important because getting multi-channel right could be the solution M&S needs. In an increasingly joined up world in which people are constantly connected, shoppers can browse ranges wherever they are, they can access product information in-store and can share ideas and inspiration with friends. Executed correctly, smartphones have the potential to enrich the shopping experience, bring the right product to the right people, help shoppers find what they’re looking for and ultimately allow M&S to have a flourishing multi-channel business that drives footfall to stores.
“The success of M&S is ultimately determined by the performance of its womenswear business. Getting the product right solves part of the problem. Improving the shopper experience will help regain its rightful place in the hearts of the British public.”