M&S managers sent back to shop floor

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer is to send 2,000 head office managers back to the shop floor over Christmas in an effort to boost flagging sales and improve service levels.

Marks & Spencer is to send 2,000 head office managers back to the shop floor over Christmas in an effort to boost flagging sales and improve service levels.

The managers will include Luc Vandevelde, the group's dapper Belgian chairman. Mr Vandevelde will take his turn packing customers' bags and showing them the way to the underwear department. It is not yet clear if he will wear the regulation polyester M&S shop uniform or his St Michael suit.

"This will be Luc's first Christmas at Marks & Spencer and he will want to see how things work," an M&S spokeswoman said. M&S said it was not yet clear which store he will be working in. "He will probably work in a variety of stores to get a wider view of the operation," the spokeswoman said. "The stores are the heart of the business and people at head office need to get out there."

Other retailers, such as Tesco, regularly send senior executives to help out at the stores, but this is the first time it has been done at M&S.

The company has declined to comment on reports that it may drop the M&S name from a group of 50 underperforming stores that may be changed into a discount format.

M&S said it was looking at options for these stores "and this might require changing the format". However, the firm denied plans to announce the changes in the next few weeks.

Peter Salsbury, M&S chief executive, said the company would need to compete with the new wave of discounters such as Matalan and Peacocks, which have grabbed market share at the value end of the sector. He said the company's UK clothing market share had fallen by 1.5-2 per cent in the past year.

Responding to questions about a possible takeover, he added: "We have received no takeover approaches."

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