Attendees of the Marks & Spencer AGM on Tuesday will not be served any refreshments or get a chance to speak to bosses face to face, as it looks to take the event totally digital.
The Percy Pig maker had advised shareholders not to travel to the company’s AGM on Tuesday, with shareholders who do arrive at the venue only able to join electronically in dedicated spaces, despite being in the building, according to reports in The Times.
Shareholders will be asked to join the AGM via their computers or phones.
The company said a totally digital format has improved attendance and chair Archie Norman now believes it makes it easier for people to participate.
The chair has been calling for changes in the way businesses interact with shareholders, launching a campaign this year which calls for a remodel of the Companies Act to “allow businesses to harness technology to improve shareholder democracy” and urging for “digital communication by default”.
The retailer’s last in-person AGM, known for generous hospitality and lively shareholder debate, was held in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
The move to transition to a digital model has not sat well with shareholders, with one, Danny Wallace, telling The Times: “If the management aren’t prepared to meet the shareholders, you’ve got a colossal failure”.
“We believe in digital AGMs because our experience shows they reach and engage more shareholders than any other format; with attendance, questions and capital voted on all up against other formats where attendance is down,” A M&S Spokesperson told City A.M
“But we have dedicated space for any shareholder who chooses to still attend in person and we’re not against hybrid AGMs; far from it. M&S has more private shareholder engagement than almost any other company, we probably hold the largest AGM in the UK and we meet with private investors throughout the year.“
It comes amid a successful year for M&S, with the highs street stalwart posting annual revenues of £11.93bn in May, up from £10.88bn the year before, as the grocery and department store turned its focus to more modern clothing and wares.
The retailer’s share price is up 35 per cent over the past year.