Friday 23 March 2018

Marks & Spencer is continuing to struggle in Ireland in first quarter

Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

MARKS & Spencer continued to struggle in Ireland during the first three months of the year, as the company deals with difficult trading conditions.

In an interim management statement covering the first quarter of the group's fiscal year -- between April and June -- the retailer said sales were "impacted" by currency losses between sterling and the euro as well as "continued macro-economic weakness in the Republic of Ireland".

The company does not break out its figures for Ireland but said its newly launched website for selling into Ireland was performing well, with some 660,000 visits to the site so far.

The grim performance in Ireland and elsewhere sent M&S to its sharpest drop in non-food revenue since 2008, missing forecasts and sparking a management shake-up at the top of the business.

Same-store sales of general merchandise, which is mostly clothes and footwear, fell 6.8pc.

The group's general-merchandise chief Kate Bostock will leave the company and be replaced by John Dixon, M&S's current head of the food unit.

Belinda Earl, a former chief executive of competitor Debenhams, will join as style director.

With the changes announced yesterday, the pressure now ramps up on chief executive Marc Bolland who joined in May 2010 with a mandate to revive sales after two years of declining growth.

Same-store sales of food, which accounts for almost half of revenue, rose 0.6pc, less than forecast.

While Ms Bostock's departure had been predicted in the media, the appointment of Ms Earl as her successor is a surprise.

She started her career at Harrods and worked for almost two decades at Debenhams, the last three years as CEO. Most recently, she was CEO of Jaeger Group.

"She probably understands the challenges of serving the UK woman better than most," said Caroline Gulliver, an analyst at Espirito Santo in London.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business