M&S sales hit by revamped website

M&S sales hit by revamped website

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Marks & Spencer heaped more frustration on shareholders today by admitting the flawed launch of its new website had dealt another blow to sales.

Teething problems with the site, including issues with customer registration and navigation, meant online sales were down 8.1% in the 13 weeks to June 28.
Its clothing and homeware division suffered from the disruption as it recorded its 12th quarter in a row of falling underlying sales - down 1.5% on a year ago.

As he prepared to face shareholders at the company's annual meeting at Wembley, chief executive Marc Bolland offered some encouragement in that womenswear sales were up "slightly" for the second quarter in a row.

He pointed to an 11% rise in sales of its Limited Edition summer range as a sign that last year's hiring of new fashion executives and numerous celebrity-driven marketing pushes were starting to pay off.

The former Morrisons boss added that the firm was simplifying parts of its website, which currently has 3.2 million users, and expects the online arm to be growing again by the retailer's peak trading period which begins in November.

The firm plans to register six million users by the end of the year, which was the number the firm's old website carried.

Chief executive Mr Bolland said: "We have seen a continued improvement in clothing, although as anticipated the settling in of the new M&S.com site has had an impact on sales."

Around 16% of its general merchandise sales came through its website.

In M&S food halls, the department outperformed a market beset by supermarket price wars as it grew like-for-like sales by 1.7%. The group's total revenues for the period improved 2.3%.

Profits have fallen for three years in a row and have just been overtaken by rival Next, although M&S is on track to meet City forecasts for a 2014-15 pre-tax profit of £663 million, up from £623 million in 2013-14.

Parts of the City were surprised that, given the troubled start to the new website, the firm's online executive director Laura Wade-Gery was last week promoted to take charge of its 800 UK high street stores.

Analysts at Shore Capital said her performance had been "pretty mediocre" and that her time might be "more effectively spent sorting out dot.com".

Shares were slightly higher today, with analysts divided over whether Mr Bolland, who joined the business in 2010, has begun to revive the retailer.

Edison Investment Research analyst Neil Shah said: "With food continuing to outperform the market, a resurgent clothing offering helping to turn the corner for general merchandise, M&S is on course to deliver one of its better all-round performances for several years."

But analysts at Shore Capital added: "Overall, we deem this to be another disappointing update from the company, with general merchandising in the UK continuing to weigh heavily upon the group's growth prospects."

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said: "For now, M&S remains a work in progress" and that Mr Bolland "is still being given the benefit of the doubt" by the City.

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M&S sales hit by revamped website

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.

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