M&S reveals survival secrets: Vandevelde cites a mix of short- and long-term moves.

Author:Hayward, Cathy
Position:Strategy - Marks and Spencer - Brief Article

A combination of rapid action and forward planning is essential if businesses are to survive in challenging economic times, industry leaders told delegates at last month's CBI business summit, sponsored by CIMA.

Luc Vandevelde, the chairman and chief executive of Marks and Spencer, said his company's recent return from the doldrums could be attributed to a mixture of both short- and long-term strategies. "Two years ago we were fighting for survival and needed a series of quick fixes to ensure that," he said.

In October 2001 M&S launched the Per Una line of clothing in a bid to win back disenchanted customers. It brought in managers with proven track records to restore confidence among the staff, and it sold off every section that distracted its attention from the firm's core business. This enabled the company to return 2 billion [pounds sterling] to its shareholders.

"All these actions bought us time and broke the vicious circle we were in," Vandevelde said. "But we also needed longer-term strategies, such as bringing in a new management team, to make sure that we didn't return to the bad old days."

M&S announced a 31 per cent increase in profits to 648 million [pounds sterling] last month and its shares have outperformed the FTSE 100 by 80 per cent over the past year. "The right balance of strategies is crucial." Vandevelde added. "Too many quick fixes and...

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