Will Marks and Spencer Group plc and Dixons Carphone plc buck the trend or head the same way as Next plc?

This Fool assesses the prospects for Marks and Spencer Group plc (LON: MKS) and Dixons Carphone plc (LON: DC). Will the results be well received or will they fall out of fashion like Next plc (LON: NXT)?

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The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

Just like father time, the stock market waits for no man. Indeed each morning and throughout the day there’s a torrent of information released into the market.

Of course, only some of that information is actually useful to investors, I am of course referring to the RNS, which everyone is interested in: trading updates and the six-monthly company results.

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Out of fashion

For many investors, especially in the retail sector, results season has been a bit of a mixed bag with online retailers such as Boohoo.com and ASOS continuing to make progress, while FTSE 100 retailer Next (LSE: NXT) was anything other than bang on trend. The shares fell to lows not seen since October 2013 following a series of disappointing updates coupled with a very uncertain outlook statement from the CEO in March.

Indeed, the CEO remarked that 2016 could be as difficult as 2008 for the group as it struggles with lunch-stealing, capex-light online competitors, poor weather and some problems of its own making.

At the last trading update in May the sentiment was still cautious with management of the view that while unlikely, it was possible sales would deteriorate further. That said, it seems that the warmer weather has significantly improved sales as temperatures finally started to rise.

Despite this trend reversal, management felt that the recent poor performance may be indicative of weaker underlying demand for clothing and a potentially wider slowdown in consumer spending.

Given the uncertainty, Next prudently lowered the company’s full price sales guidance range to -3.5% to +3.5% for the year to January 2017.

More pain to come?

And this week we turn to high street stalwarts Marks & Spencer (LSE: MKS) and Dixons Carphone (LSE: DC), both of them due to release their numbers to the market this week.

As can be seen from the chart below, all the shares have underperformed the main index over the last 12 months. However, the trio of retailers has been picking up of late.

Yet the same can’t be said of analysts’ forecasts, which have been heading down over the last few months. This is more pronounced at M&S, which analysts now expect to report around 1 penny per share less in earnings for the year ending March 2016.

Analysts are less bearish about Dixons Carphone with forecasts shaved by just half a penny. Nevertheless, the general trend is down, perhaps due to a read-across from the challenging environment reported by Next.

Poised to surprise?

However, given all of the negativity surrounding retailers at the moment, any earnings surprise on the upside could well see the shares do very well on the day.

Just as we saw with Next at the start of May, even relatively downbeat news can have a positive impact on the shares once the market realises that it has become too negative on the company – and this could be the case with Dixons Carphone and M&S.

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