Careful… this is a tricky question if you are to be technically correct…
If you met the CEO of M&S and were asked for advice from an ‘’‘auditory’’’ point of view, what would you say?
The word auditory implies directly related to the audit or related audit work. Auditors, by definition, should never give advice to their clients as their would be a breach of independence (auditors must be able to make an impartial judgement about their client’s financial future, without affecting it directly or having any hand in it).
Therefore, londonbloke’s first point is by far the strongest. M&S could do well to keep up to date with it’s stocktaking. With respect to the second point, this too is good but should be rephrased more like:
“The increasing cost of fuel and energy poses a financial risk to M&S. M&S should seek to mitigate this risk.”
M&S could mitigate this risk by buying fuel [[futures]], which would allow them to predict what price they will be paying for fuel in the future, no matter what the market price became. Notice that this forms the context of ‘advice’ and auditors shouldn’t really be giving business advice which is not directly related to audit issues (such as internal [[control]] etc).
Another point you could make that would make you stand out would be:
“The increasing cost of credit and fuel has resulted in the reduction of disposable income available to British households. Unlike other supermarkets, M&S does not differentiate its lines (e.g. Smartprice, Eat Well) but offers only a unique luxury line of items for a premium. In times when consumer pockets are squeezed, it is likely that M&S will suffer a loss in market share in favour of its cheaper competitors.”
This is a risk to the business and so should be identified by the auditors. Again, exactly what ‘advice’ you could give is ‘limited’. In other words, you really need to be pointing out risks to the business rather than giving them advice on what to do about them.
You might be asked exactly what they should do to mitigate a particular risk you have identified, in which case you can then suggest a solution (e.g. diversify into cheaper products etc). Make sure you back up your solution with reasoning and be talkative.
On an aside note, M&S is a business that comes up again and again at interview. It is particuulary interesting because it always tends to have great swings of success and failure, and is always in the public eye, so its a good business to know a bit about, and talk about in interview if asked.