Bolland vows to boost M&S sales by 25 per cent

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The Independent Online

Marc Bolland, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, has vowed to increase the retailer's sales by up to a quarter over the next three years by opening new UK and overseas stores, ramping up its online business and overhauling its brands.

In his eagerly awaited strategic review, the Dutchman said his strategy was about "evolution not revolution" and stressed the "business is in good shape".

But Mr Bolland made his mark by ditching several initiatives introduced by Sir Stuart Rose, the outgoing chairman, over the past six years, including the Portfolio clothing sub-brand, selling technology items, such as TVs and laptops, in its bigger shops and by moving off the online platform provided by Amazon, the auction giant, from 2013. Tony Shiret, an analyst at Credit Suisse, said: "Most of the things that Sir Stuart introduced appear not to feature in the future plans."

The review by Mr Bolland, who joined M&S in May from the grocer Morrisons, came as M&S reported a robust 14 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £349m for the half year to 2 October. Total sales at M&S jumped by 5.4 per cent to £4.57bn.

The centrepiece of the review was a target to increase total sales by as much as 25 per cent to between £11.5bn and £12.5bn by 2013/14. To this end, M&S, which has 1,038 stores in 42 territories, will increase its capital expenditure by £850m to £900m over the next three years.

Of the additional revenues, Mr Bolland said the UK business would deliver between £1bn and £1.5bn, partly by increasing the amount of UK retail space by 3 per cent over the next five years. He also committed to expand its UK estate of 356 Simply Food shops.

In food, Mr Bolland said the main focus would be on innovation and cementing its position as a specialist food retailer, distancing itself from the big supermarkets. In a further nod to his focus on the M&S brand, the retailer will scale back its trial of 400 branded food lines, such as Marmite and PG Tips, to about 100, primarily by reducing product variants.

In clothing, Mr Bolland vowed to address the fact that customers can find its core stores "difficult" to shop with clearer segmentation and signage of its brands. However, he also admitted that customers "lack clarity" on the positioning of sub-brands in clothing. While he is ditching Portfolio, targeted at older women, Mr Bolland plans to invest in its other sub-brands, such as Per Una and Autograph, by bringing in dedicated brand managers to provide a more tailored marketing strategy.

M&S will introduce the new strap line of "Only at M&S", alongside Your M&S, on selected unique food and merchandise. Overseas, it will initially expand in existing territories, such as China, India, the Czech Republic and Turkey. Mr Bolland also vowed to ramp up online sales to between £800m and £1bn a year.

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