It\u2019s not often that the business pages give you a good belly laugh. But today we have the spectacle of\u00a0Marks & Spencer\u00a0blaming its poor Christmas trading results partly on an oversupply of skinny jeans for men.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nApparently customer surveys revealed that the high street bellwether\u2019s ranges were \u201ctoo old\u201d the previous year, and\u00a0M&S\u00a0bosses were determined to avoid that label again in Christmas 2019.\r\n\r\nBut it would seem they went too far the other way, especially since the nation\u2019s gentlemen were about to embark on the season of gastronomic excess \u2013 nobody wants a teenage-boy-size waistband constraining the intake of myriad cheeses after a sumptuous Christmas dinner.\r\n\r\nThe firm admits that it \u201cgot the balance wrong\u201d in terms of the volume of slim-fit trousers it put out on rails, as men turned away from the anatomically-challenging designs.\r\n\r\nTo be fair, M&S did not fare too badly in its result in my view, given the continuing carnage on the high street.\r\n\r\nIn the UK, its food business was up 1.4% like for like, and while clothing and home did drop by 1.7%, it must be remembered that the competition from online challengers intensifies all the time, both as online retail becomes more advanced and newer entrants into the market via the online route enjoy a business model that eschews the hassle and expense of running A1 retail units.\r\nThe\u00a0John Lewis\u00a0bonus tradition may be at breaking point\r\nFor decades now the\u00a0John Lewis Partnership, which includes\u00a0Waitrose\u00a0supermarkets, has doled out an annual bonus to all its staff. The \u2018Partnership\u2019 part of its name means just that: employees are in fact legal partners of the business and as such they are each due a small cut of the profits, such as they are.\r\n\r\nBut this Christmas has disappointed John Lewis bosses and the firm said: \u201cThe Partnership Board will meet in February to decide whether it is prudent to pay a Partnership Bonus. The decision will be influenced by our level of profitability, planned investment and maintaining the strength of our balance sheet.\u201d\r\n\r\nIt is yet another sign of the times: the great icons of British retail have had a rough couple of years and in all but a handful of examples, online competition, business rates, minimum wage increases, falling footfall and the cost of digital transformation have taken their collective toll.\r\nIn light of all this, the Bank of England\u2019s comments may well be welcome\r\nThe outgoing governor of the BoE, Mark Carney, today announced that he is considering cutting interest rates from their current 0.75% to 0% to provide some stimulus in what he apparently thinks could be quite a tough year.\r\n\r\nHe was speaking at an \u2018inflation targeting conference\u2019 (whatever that means), in\u00a0London, and he said there is no certainty that growth will pick up in 2020 even though the political situation has cooled down.\r\n\r\nHe said: \u201cThis rebound is not, of course, assured. The economy has been sluggish, slack has been growing, and inflation is below target. Much hinges on the speed with which domestic confidence returns. As is entirely appropriate, there is a debate at the MPC over the relative merits of near term stimulus to reinforce the expected recovery in UK growth and inflation.\u201d\r\n\r\nHis replacement, Andrew Bailey, takes over on 16 March this year, but is unlikely to rip up the rulebook. Not least because interest rates have been at historic lows for the best part of a decade, and there is little room to move when you\u2019re already near the baseline.\r\n\r\nPerhaps another round of quantitative easing could be back on the cards.