Wednesday 28 September 2016

M&S boss bows out after sales slump

Holly Williams

Published 08/01/2016 | 02:30

A cyclist rides past a display window at a Marks And Spencer Plc store on Oxford Street in London
A cyclist rides past a display window at a Marks And Spencer Plc store on Oxford Street in London

Marks & Spencer boss Marc Bolland is to bow out in April after a six-year battle to turn around the high street giant as it revealed a dire Christmas performance from its womenswear division.

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Mr Bolland will be replaced by M&S veteran Steve Rowe, who has been with the group for more than 25 years and was recently promoted to head its general merchandise business.

Details of the change at the top came as M&S revealed that like-for-like sales in its general merchandise arm, which includes clothing, slumped by 5.8pc in the 13 weeks to December 26.

It blamed the tumble on unusually mild weather and poor stock availability.

Mr Bolland said it had been "a huge honour to lead one of Britain's most iconic companies".

He added: "I am delighted to hand over to Steve Rowe as my successor. I have worked closely with Steve for six years and I am convinced that he will be a great leader for Marks & Spencer."

M&S chairman Robert Swannell paid tribute to Mr Bolland's achievements and was well positioned for a digital age, with its own online platform and dedicated e-commerce distribution centre, improved design and sourcing capabilities in general merchandise and an industry-leading track record of growth and innovation in the food business.

But further woes in the group's troubled clothing division highlight Mr Bolland's struggle to revive trading, with the outgoing boss admitting the general merchandise performance over the festive season was "disappointing".

The fall in like-for-like sales, which followed a 1.9pc drop in the previous three months, came as the group resisted pressure to discount early despite widespread sales launched on the high street.

Retail expert Clive Black, at Shore Capital, said the Christmas performance by M&S's general merchandise business was "demonstrably disappointing" and weaker even than rival Next, which shocked the market earlier this week with a fall in festive store sales and sharp slowdown in its Directory catalogue and online arm.

Irish Independent

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