Comment: M&S patience | Dundee waterfront

SHAREHOLDERS in Marks & Spencer are clearly a patient lot. Or maybe chief executive Marc Bolland is such a charmer that he is able to sweet talk his way out of every problem he faces.

Marc Bolland managed to fend off a mini-revolt at yesterdays AGM. Picture: PA

He is certainly a survivor and managed to fend off another mini-revolt at yesterday’s annual general meeting. Just how long that goodwill can last is a testing question as patience surely has its limits.

The new website is now being blamed for a slump in online sales. The company sees it as teething trouble and says it will be back to growth before the end of the year. Online difficulties, however, are the last thing any retailer needs right now as consumer spending increasingly moves from the high street to the web. For M&S, online troubles to some extent disguise the more deep-seated problems with the company’s clothing division. The company just cannot get it right despite hiring design gurus and top line management as well as lavishing millions on celebrity-laden advertising campaigns.

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Some say the company is targeting the wrong shopper, chasing the young and fashion-conscious instead of its more traditional older generation customer who wants clothes that look good and last a long time.

Bolland has tried everything to turn around the general merchandise business, which includes womenswear, though some say this is part of the problem – too much change and innovation which has left the customer confused about what is on offer. There is talk within the company of some radical upheavals to come, some clamping down on costs and an even greater focus being placed on the foods business which goes from strength to strength.

Harsher critics, who have listened with increasing frustration to the excuses, simply say they do not like the ranges enough to buy them. The answer to that is to sell what people want to buy.

Dundee delivering on its promise of jam

The release of more land for development at Dundee’s Waterfront is a sign of a property market picking up and of the city’s renewed confidence.

It is pleasing to see this project coming together. Few cities blessed with such a fabulous riverside were so unwelcoming to visitors. The transformation of this area and its inclusion in the wider city is long overdue and will have enormous knock-on benefits in terms of economic well-being and by inducing a feelgood factor among Dundonians.

The Royal Town Planning Institute has provided an extra fillip by voting the Waterfront the best place in Scotland, quite an accolade for a location that is still being developed.

An important feature of this project is the holistic approach that has been adopted, a vital factor in the redevelopment of city centre riversides in Liverpool, Leeds. Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland. Sadly, Glasgow suffered from a piecemeal approach fractured further by disagreement among the many competing parties. It has created a hotch-potch of developments and gap sites that are barely an improvement on what they replaced.