Suits are back, says Marks & Spencer, as sales of formalwear jump 40pc

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Suits are back, Marks & Spencer has said, as sales of formalwear jumped 40pc after workers started returning to the office.

M&S stopped selling suits in many of its stores in 2021 amid a slump in demand caused by the pandemic and the rise of working from home.

However, the company has now seen a major rise in sales of suits and smart casual garments as more staff return to workplaces.

Sales of mens’ suits were up 28pc over the 13 weeks to Dec 31 compared with the same period last year.

Victoria McKenzie-Gould, director of corporate affairs at M&S, said: “Suiting is up, [but it’s] a kind of slightly more modern take on what you might wear to the office.”

She added certain smart casual items such as jersey blazers were proving popular.

It comes as bosses are increasingly requesting staff come into work more often. The number of job adverts for remote roles declined for the seventh consecutive month in a row in November 2022, according to LinkedIn data.

However, many workers have not returned to full weeks in the office. Almost a quarter of workers now have a ‘hybrid’ split between office and home, according to data from the Office for National Statistics, with 14pc exclusively working from home.

M&S formalwear saw a similar increase, with sales up by more than 40pc. Bow ties were up 41pc compared to last year, with dinner shirts up 65pc.

Sales of party clothes more than doubled too as events and gatherings returned to people’s diaries, with sequin garments proving particularly popular.

Over the Christmas week M&S sold 140,000 pieces of sequin outfits, including 40,000 sequin tops.

It comes as M&S capped off a Christmas trading period which saw like-for-like sales rise 6.3pc across its food halls, with its largest-ever Christmas sales of more than £80m on Dec 23.

Stuart Machin, chief executive at M&S, said: “The four weeks of December was the best market share we’ve ever had on record.

“Our value is resonating with customers. The work we’ve done on quality and value in food is paying off.”

M&S has spent past years enmeshed in a long-running turnaround project designed to broaden its appeal among shoppers and make it more competitive with other supermarkets.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank said: “M&S has been working hard on store standards, technology improvements and price perception and this has been recognised, in our view, by consumers.”

M&S said the year to come would be marked by “clear macro-economic headwinds ahead and underlying cost pressures” but stuck by its guidance for full-year results and said it was cutting costs under its existing overhaul programme in the face of inflation woes.