A week might be a long time in politics, but it seems two months can be a lifetime in retailing.
In May, Marks & Spencer was everyone’s High Street favourite again as profits soared and the “r-word” – recovery – was being liberally bandied about by chief executive Stuart Rose and anyone else asked to comment on the retailer’s reversal in fortune.
Two months on, however, M&S has revealed a slow down in sales and issued a warning that trading will remain “very challenging“.
Stuart Rose has cited “rising interest rates, general uncertainty over consumer spending, and extreme weather conditions” as the main factors in creating a volatile market.
But this is the same Stuart Rose who ridiculed the excuses High Street used for poor performance last November by stating: “Weather is for wimps“?
That is the trouble with media-friendly soundbites – they have an annoying habit of coming back to haunt you.
Mr Rose, naturally, has put another spin on why M&S has suffered as a result of atmospheric conditions. It has something to do with “extremes of weather”, apparently.
He is probably right, as June and July have largely proved a wash out in just about every sense of that description. Although, it does not tally with the British Retail Consortium reporting that June saw an overall growth in sales as consumers looked to capitalised on the bargains available.
It has not been a good week for Mr Rose or his board, with M&S shareholders rounding on them for paying themselves large bonuses whilst adopting a more miserly attitude to those on the shop floor.
Some have even suggested that the M&S recovery bubble is about to burst in quite spectacular fashion.
It is surely too early to talk such doom and gloom, but it is clear that M&S remains as vulnerable as the rest of the High Street.