Undated handout image issued by Marks and Spencer of a still from their latest Christmas advert called Paddington and the Christmas Visitor, which features Paddington Bear inadvertently saving Christmas for his neighbours. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday November 7, 2017. The advert's airing comes at a difficult time for the retailer which is poised to release another set of grim figures when it reports for the half year on Wednesday. See PA story CONSUMER M&S. Photo credit should read: Marks & Spencer/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Marks and Spencer's latest pre-Christmas TV ad, launched this week, features Paddington Bear © PA

Marks and Spencer’s new TV advert features Paddington Bear, the ursine Peruvian marmalade lover adopted by the Brown family of west London. But what might he make of his local store?

Paddington settled quickly into life at number 32 Windsor Gardens. Mrs Brown had entrusted him with the weekly shopping and Mrs Bird, the housekeeper, remarked that she had never known a bear with such an eye for a bargain. “That bear gets more for his 5 pence than anyone I know,” she said.

But one morning, on his way to have elevenses with his friend Mr Gruber, he decided to stop at Marks and Spencer to buy their buns, rather than the baker’s.

At first, he was confused, because all he could see was some women who looked just like Mrs Bird, inspecting racks of cardigans. “Can I help you, sir?” enquired a friendly voice. “I’m Mr Rowe, the manager. Is it a new hat you’re after?” Paddington gave him a hard stare. “This hat was given to me by my Aunt Lucy — it’s where I keep my emergency marmalade sandwich.”

Mr Rowe smiled weakly. “How about a new duffel coat?” he asked. “We’ve been sharpening our ranges to provide better choices with fewer options — so we can become the UK’s essential clothing retailer!” Paddington was not sure he wanted a sharper coat. “I buy all my essential clothing in Barkridges bargain basement,” he explained. “Do you have a bargain basement?”

Mr Rowe shook his head. “Er, no, we’ve reduced our clearance sales from 4 to 2 — so, although like-for-like clothing sales fell by 0.7 per cent in the last six months, full price sales were up 5.3 per cent. That meant our clothes gross margin was up 140 basis points.”

Paddington had not come across a gross margin before, and he did not like the sound of it. Nor, apparently, did the Mrs Bird lookalikes, who all left.

“I just want some cut-price buns,” said Paddington. “Everyone does,” muttered Mr Rowe. “We’ve had to absorb significant input cost inflation to limit price increases, and our gross food margin has fallen 130 basis points. So we’ve decided to slow down our Simply Food store opening programme, as we can’t make as much money as we thought.”

Paddington frowned. “But won’t you need more food shops if you’re not selling so many duffel coats?” he asked.

“That was the plan, but now we’re, er, repositioning food,” said Mr Rowe. “We’re testing paid-for delivery to see if it works with a small basket size.” Paddington said he did not think it would, given his own experiments with a tricycle. “I don’t want to pay extra for my buns,” he said hotly. Mr Rowe sighed. “I know, so we’re also taking steps to bring out value in our ranges.”

Paddington thought for a moment. “So you won’t offer clothes bargains, but now you have to for food? Oh dear, Mr Rowe, it all seems very hard to understand, as it keeps changing.”

A man in a pinstripe suit appeared. “Bear!” he boomed. “You’re right! I’m Mr Norman, the chairman, and I agree with you. Would you be interested in becoming our new chief financial officer? The last one has just left . . . ”

Sophos gives 108%

Computer geeks can pull off some amazing calculations. Those at Sophos, the cyber security specialist, reckon they have retained 108 per cent of their customers, with “renewal rates” at an equally maths-defying 139 per cent.

It turns out that these figures include the upselling of additional products to existing clients — so, arguably, they are really for “newal”. Or “tention”. But whatever the logic — or language — they led the company to compute a 22 per cent rise in billings in the first half, and revise its forecasts for the full year.

Sophos has enjoyed strong demand for its anti-ransomware product, which is designed to protect organisations from cyber attacks such as the WannaCry virus. When WannaCry disabled NHS computers this summer, sales only strengthened.

But profit is not scheduled until 2020, so Sophos needs to keeps winning the battle against the attackers. As UBS notes, the developer is not unlike the 108 per cent of clients it protects: “The reputation and business of Sophos could be harmed should errors or vulnerabilities in its security solutions be discovered”.


Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, is characteristically robust in denouncing Brexit “misinformation” from Sainsbury’s boss David Tyler and the Financial Times, writes Kate Burgess. He accuses the FT of wrongly assuming that “reversion to World Trade Organisation rules . . . would axiomatically result in the imposition of tariffs”, highlighting a news story in which politician Nick Clegg says these would be 14 per cent on wine, 40 per cent on cheese and 59 per cent on beef. “It is not true,” Mr Martin says baldly.

Lombard marvels at anyone can divine how WTO rules will pan out. WTO arcana has kept eggheads bickering for decades. This is the organisation that spent two years arguing with whether the South American pilchard, sardinops sagax sagax, could be defined as a sardine.


JD Wetherspoon: kate.burgess@ft.com

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