Marks & Spencer has appointed dotcom pioneer Martha Lane Fox as a non-executive director in a move aimed at boosting its online sales, the retailer announced as it posted profits of £965.2m.
The profit figures for the year ending 31 March mark a nine-year high for M&S and a 28.5% increase on last year, with like-for-like sales up 6.1%. But sales on the M&S Direct website have risen much more sharply, with online growth for the year reaching almost 60%, with sales of £160m.
The retailer had more than 55m visits to its website over the financial year, making it one of the most visited retail websites in the UK.
The recruitment of Lane Fox, who founded pioneering travel website Lastminute.com in 1998, signals an intention to step up the online effort further. Lord Burns, chairman of Marks & Spencer said: “We are delighted that Martha is joining the board as a non-executive director, bringing with her considerable business experience as well as knowledge of the online sector."
M&S relaunched the website in March after working with online shopping giant Amazon to redevelop it with improved functionality. Improvements include better navigation, search capability and quicker ordering. It has also expanded its online catalogue.
In a statement released with the results, M&S said: "This enhanced functionality will enable us to increase our basket size through improved cross-selling of product across our entire offer."
It added: "A new ordering platform will enable us to improve availability and we are now working on upgrading our in-store ordering systems to use a single integrated order platform across all channels of stores, telephone and online. This will provide improved levels of customer service and fulfilment."
The retailer said it was also making changes to its supply chain and technology, investing in areas such as radio frequency identity (RFID) tagging and point of sale systems, to support the future growth of the business and improve customer experience.
But recent IT developments have not been entirely happy.
Earlier this month, M&S warned 26,000 staff that their personal data was at risk following theft of a laptop computer containing pension information from a printing firm.