England football scores for Marks & Spencer!

Bizarre but true: bellwether UK retailer Marks & Spencer managed to sell 38,000 Jamie Redknapp-promoted polo shirts and even 5,000 ‘replica’ England football team grey suits in the first quarter of 2010.

Bet those 5,000 people feel a touch foolish now, they probably look as pleased as manager Fabio Capello did when he last appeared in one at his final gruesome World Cup press conference.

These fascinating factlets emerged from former Morrisons man Marc Bolland’s first public appearance since taking over as boss of M&S from Sir Stuart Rose. The sales didn’t have much to do with him of course but will at least placate the City of London which, on balance, is hopping mad about his astonishing contract which guarantees him millions for not doing that much.

Bolland’s expertise is food from his Morrisons days (before that he was a senior marketer at Heineken). M&S food sales, which have been struggling under a concerted assault from fashionable grocer Waitrose, rose 2.9 per cent in the period (1.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis) which is better than many pundits expected.

Clothing sales were up a healthy six per cent leaving group sales overall up 4.4 per cent, a pretty good performance through the tail end (we hope) of the recession.

Former CEO Rose, who’s also stepping down as chairman soon, has done a good reviving M&S even though its profits are unlikely to see the £1bn achieved in 2008 for a while.

Rose is a seasoned rag trader of course so Bolland has a hard act to follow there. It’s unlikely that the company will be quite so keen to provide England suits in the forthcoming European championship though.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.