Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Marks and Spencer bags itself a profits warning

Has M&S scored a disastrous own goal in its food department? From May it began to charge customers 5p for a carrier bag (10p for the Bag For Life pictured above). All the profits go to charity. So M&S doesn't benefit by a single penny, but judging from feedback on the Telegraph's website lots of shoppers have been turned away by the charge. Instead of stumping up for this unwanted 'green levy' they shop next door instead. 5p is a hell of a price to pay for such a huge loss in sales.

This morning Marks and Spencer issued a shock profits warning. The share price slumped 20% on the news - with shares trading around 260p - last year they were over 700p. Food sales are down 4.5% and the Head of Food, recruited just a year ago (from Waitrose) has eaten his last meal in the M&S canteen.

My mother says the M&S ready meals quality has gone down. The packs have got bigger, but the contents smaller. I hardly buy any food from M&S anymore - the prices are ludicrous.

The threat to the environment from plastic bags has, I suspect,
been grossly exaggerated. Ealing council has recently begun to recycle residents' plastic waste. Since introducing the new measure Ealing has hit the 30% recycled waste target every month. I'm not surprised. I manage to fill a large bag with plastic every week - even though I actively avoid buying plastic packaged fruit and vegetables. I don't throw away plastic carriers either. On a recent trip to Norwich the local Council was dispensing free re-usable cotton bags at a large branch of Salisbury's. I've been using the same cotton bag ever since. I think M&S will soon be rethinking its own bag policy. After all if you buy socks or pants they give you a free bag, but not if you buy bread or milk.

The news is full of shock horror stories about rising food prices. Today I was doing my accounts and sorting receipts. Among them a Tesco till receipt for exactly a year ago. By coincidence I bought some of the same items in Tesco yesterday. I compared the receipts. A pint of milk is up - from 35p to 42p, and 500g of Tesco Greek Yogurt from 78p to 98p. A can of Heinz soup last year was 59p, this week its 69p - but the same offer applies this week as it did exactly a year ago - buy 4 x cans for £2. Weetabix also has the same special offer as a year ago - buy 2x24 packs for £2, but last year a single pack cost £1.54, this week its £1.78. A kilo of loose carrots in July 2007 was 67p in July 2008 they cost 87p. The good news - a single lime is still just 15p (every lime helps perhaps?) I think I'll keep a few more supermarket receipts on file for next year.

Saving till receipts is a surprisingly effective method of keeping track of your cash.

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