Marks & Spencer will stop issuing shopping vouchers to thousands of investors who hold its shares through stockbrokers as part of an investor communications overhaul.
The move will affect about half of its small investor base – accounting for around 9 per cent of all M&S stock – who hold shares through third-party brokers, such as Hargreaves Lansdown.
M&S currently sends a bundle of paper Spend & Save vouchers to any shareholder who owned at least one share. This includes 10 per cent off a single purchase, several smaller food and clothing vouchers and £2.50 to spend in the cafe.
Cutting back: M&S currently sends a bundle of paper Spend & Save vouchers to any shareholder who owned at least one share
It is understood that thousands of vouchers sent to brokers are routinely not handed out. Others are believed to be, but go unspent.
M&S intends to scrap the scheme entirely. Instead, it will offer a digital voucher to those who buy shares via its registrar, Equiniti.
Existing investors who hold shares directly must sign up to Equiniti’s Shareview website by February 24 to qualify. In most cases, investors who bought their shares through so-called nominee accounts – typically caspa online stockbrokers who hold share certificates for clients – will no longer qualify. The shake-up will also hit direct shareholders who do not have internet access.
The move is understood to be part of a plan to connect with loyal investors who want to engage with M&S over its strategy. Nominee investors are already unable to receive direct communications because M&S does not hold their details.
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One shareholder, who contacted The Mail on Sunday to complain about the changes, said he had to contact his stockbroker every year to ask it to send on the vouchers.
The company’s investor website says: ‘We are undergoing a far-reaching transformation – and our ambition to become a digital first retailer is at the heart of how we are changing. This includes how we engage with our shareholders; ensuring that, as we change, we build long-term shareholder relationships supported by accurate and informed communication.
‘As part of our digital first plan, we have stopped the distribution of paper shareholder discounts and instead we will provide a unique discount code fully redeemable online for all shareholders signed up to Shareview.’
About 20 per cent of M&S shares are held by small retail investors – about £700 million by value.
One shareholder said he felt the move may be financially driven and suggested that M&S must be ‘saving a fortune’ by ‘dramatically reducing’ perks.
But he said that he had been told to register online and for that he needed shareholder certificate details, which he did not have because his shares were held through a nominee.
M&S told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘We are no longer distributing paper vouchers and have instead offered an incentive to shareholders that hold in their own name who are registered for e-communications.
‘We want to engage efficiently through digital communications with everyone that holds an interest in M&S, but due to the structure of broker-managed accounts we’re not able to directly communicate with nominee holders and therefore cannot provide an equivalent registration incentive.
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