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What M&S suppliers should tell Bolland

Marks & Spencer wants its suppliers to contribute to refits and adverts – the new boss should answer a few questions first

Marks & Spencer has a nerve. The FT reports today (paywall) that it is asking its suppliers to contribute to the bill for revamping stores and running adverts (presumably the Christmas spectacular featuring X Factor contestants, a campaign that sounds very useful for Simon Cowell).

Suppliers will probably bite their lips — they usually do when retailers try these strong-arm tactics. But it would be nice if one of their number made the following points:

First, if M&S finds itself short of a few quid it has only itself to blame. Under former boss Sir Stuart Rose, it was buying back shares enthusiastically even when colder winds were blowing through the high street. Some £556m of shares were bought in 2007-08 at an average price of 441p — that’s a long way north of today’s price of 310p.

Second, why do M&S’s store refits cost so much? Rose spent £2bn on improvements and his successor Marc Bolland has ear-marked another £600m. Where does it all go? Rival Next never seems to incur these monumental costs, which may be one reason why the stock market valuations of the two companies are rapidly converging (M&S was worth £4.9bn last night, Next £4.3bn). This is despite Bolland’s outfit enjoying a greater share of the clothing market and a total turnover (including M&S Food) about 2.5 times higher.

Third, if M&S wishes to rationalise its cheeky move as part of a new-broom approach under Bolland, it should stop pretending that the Rose years represented a triumphant reinvention of the brand and the company. More than ever, it looks as if victory was declared too early. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds