Marks & Spencer is aiming to ape Tesco’s promise of “every little helps” following this week’s disastrous results by rolling out its “Book & Shop” online reservation service for members of the Sparks loyalty club, in an effort to boost customer experience as the new lockdown looms large.
The service, which has been designed inhouse, allows Sparks members to use the M&S website to book a guaranteed slot to shop for groceries at stores, removing the need to queue. It is available at 566 M&S food halls and larger M&S outlets containing food halls.
The retailer said the Book & Shop service had been tested in 80 stores across Scotland and Wales following increased restrictions in those regions. It also allows M&S staff to manage the number of customers in store at any time – booking in customers with allocated slots and factoring in customers who have not reserved.
M&S stores director Helen Milford said: “With winter ahead, we know customers are increasingly concerned about queuing, so in response, we wanted to deliver a quick, digital solution to help them shop.
“Book & Shop helps Sparks customers guarantee a slot at a time that suits them and removing the need to queue should there be one. Of course customers will always be able to visit M&S without a slot but we hope this is a small way we can help make things a little easier for our customers.”
The move comes as the company has revealed the first loss in its 94 years as a publicly-listed company. In the six months to September 26, the retailer made a loss of £87.6m, compared with profits of £158.8m in the same period last year. Sales for the six-month period across the group slid by 15.8% to £4.09bn – largely impacted by lower clothing and home sales.
In fact, grocery sales were one of the few highlights, with M&S reporting strong growth in its Ocado Retail joint venture, which started delivering M&S food as the start of September.
It said the partnership has reported a 47.9% jump in sales, while profitability has also improved. Its own grocery business had also performed “strongly” over the half-year, with like-for-like sales rising by 2.7% on the back of substantial growth from its Simply Food stores.
Chief executive Steve Rowe said the firm’s overall performance had been “much more robust than at first seemed possible” and added: “My goal remains unchanged – that is to deliver the long-term transformation for M&S, building a brand that is more digital in a world that will never be the same again.
“We know the challenges we’re facing will continue,” but insisted the retailer was in a “much better position” for the key Christmas trading period.
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