Comment: Heat is on, but M&S looks to cold climate

Terry Murden. Picture: TSPL
Terry Murden. Picture: TSPL
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THE temperature may be rising across the country, but the merchandising folk at Marks & Spencer are thinking ahead to colder climes.

In just 15 days’ time, the store will be stocking its autumn-winter range on which the future of the company and its chief executive may depend. The range was well-received when it was showcased last month. Marc Bolland’s job is to turn that into sales.

He will take heart from yesterday’s first-quarter figures. Food and international were always looking good and online sales are steaming ahead. As one analyst neatly put it, the company’s future is with the digital, not the twinset generation. For now, it is the general merchandise division, including the key womenswear range, that remains the focus of attention and, although down for the eigth consecutive quarter, the figures there were not as bad as feared. Even so, remove the online business and the general merchandise division numbers do not look at all pretty.

The market, however, sees this first quarter as a winter warm-up as the much-vaunted relaunch of the range and of the stores will kick in once the cooler weather arrives. As we all bask in the scorching weather, it may seem out of place to be thinking about Christmas, but Bolland and his new team of style gurus will have little else on their minds.

Hard bargaining ahead for soft drinks merger

APPROVAL for the merger of AG Barr and Britvic was expected when the Competition Commission delivered its final report yesterday, but that does not mean to say it will go ahead.

Much has changed, specifically on the Britvic side. It has a new chief executive, Simon Litherland, who has quickly implemented a new strategy and found savings.

In summary, the company’s board is no longer so obviously in thrall to its would-be partner.

That said, talks will resume with a tie-up as one potential outcome. But Litherland and his shareholders would want to extract more from the venture. Already it is suggested that it gets a bigger slice, although Roger White, Litherland’s opposite number at AG Barr, remains favourite to land the top job should the deal go ahead.

Low-key hire as Shell opts for experience

the appointment of Ben van Beurden as chief executive of Shell will please those who think the 30-year veteran will bring a steady hand to the group.

It will surprise those who expected chief financial officer Simon Henry to get the job, but having an engineer in charge is seen as vital in the energy industry. As such he is expected to fall into the mould set by Jeroen van der Veer, which also means adopting a low profile.