Marks and Spencer's poor woman fashion sales suggest loyalty scheme isn't paying off

Marks and Spencer has reported another fall in sales for its fashion business signalling that its attempts to turn around lacklustre sales with a new loyalty scheme are failing to pay off.

The retailer saw sales of its general merchandise, which including clothing, decline by 1.2 per cent in the six months leading up to 26 September.

It follows months of declining sales in its fashion businesses which it addressed with the introduction of a new loyalty scheme in October called Sparks.

The rewards card gives customers points for every £1 they spend well as for leaving product reviews and donating old clothes to charity through the retailer’s Shwop programme. Members also receive tailor-made offers, priority access to the likes of the M&S seasonal sales and invites to exclusive events.

The Sparks loyalty scheme has coincided with the company’s decision to focus more on full price sales and discount less which it admits has “affected sales performance”. Poor sales in its fashion business are in discord with the other areas of the business that have grown such as food sales which rose 0.2 per cent.

M&S chief executive Marc Bolland told BBC 5 live that the retailer was attempting to drive sales in its fashion line by improving margins and selling fewer items on promotion rather than trying to boost volumes.

He added that in doing so the company would be designing and sourcing more clothing itself in order to generate savings that would be partly passed on to customers.

Whether the loyalty scheme gathers momentum leading into the Christmas period remains to be seen however early indications show that customers are more interested in promotions and more focus on the food offerings.

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