Marks & Spencer shakes up top team as non-food sales fall

 

Marks & Spencer's worst trading performance for three years triggered a boardroom casualty today after its womenswear range failed to strike a chord with shoppers.

The UK's biggest fashion retailer said sales of women's clothes had been hit by the wet weather and a shortage of some of its most popular lines, while it admitted to analysts it was losing market share.

That drove a 6.8% fall in non-food like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to June 30 - its worst performance since December 2008.

Kate Bostock, who is head of general merchandise, will leave the group in October, while former Debenhams and Jaeger boss Belinda Earl has been tasked with revitalising the offer in the newly created role of style director.

While Marks avoided a shareholder rebellion at its annual meeting, some retail watchers said Ms Bostock had been made a scapegoat in order to take the heat off chief executive Marc Bolland.

Pressure has been mounting on the Dutchman to justify a pay packet that is potentially worth up to £6 million after he recently oversaw the retailer's first fall in profits for three years.

To make matters worse, M&S stock market value has at times recently slipped below rival Next, while online fashion store ASOS added to the strain by reporting a better-than-expected 8% rise in UK sales today.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said: "M&S's problems in womenswear go far beyond the weather, as they are clearly losing market share.

"M&S desperately needs some stability in top management, but Marc Bolland is fighting for his own job so he has, somewhat predictably, made poor Kate Bostock, the head of M&S clothing, the scapegoat for the poor first quarter trading."

Ms Earl, who will work for the chain for two to three days a week, left Jaeger earlier this year after a period of sick leave.

The former Debenhams chief executive will work closely with John Dixon, who is currently in charge of food but will take over as head of general merchandise. He has been with the company for 26 years and is seen as a potential successor to Mr Bolland.

But Ms Earl may have a tough job ahead of her, as M&S's clothes have been criticised as frumpy and struggling to appeal to a younger audience, despite high profile adverts featuring the likes of Gary Barlow and Myleene Klass.

And today's figures will fuel fears that Marks, which has 700 stores in the UK, is losing its grip on the key womenswear market.

Seymour Pierce analyst Freddie George said: "Womenswear has been off trend and a rebranding exercise has not yet gained any traction.

"But I think they are generally doing the right things but it takes a while to get the message across to consumers."

Mr Bolland said the stock issues were a continuation of the problems it reported in April, when it did not buy enough of some of its best-selling lines and it could have sold more than double the number of pump shoes.

Marks said it is confident that it is taking the necessary steps to address the poor performance of its non-food business.

As well as the shake-up in the management team, it has improved buying and merchandising and believes its stock will be back on target in time for the autumn-winter season, which will be launched in stores later this month.

Sales of coats, jackets and hosiery have done well amid the grim early summer weather but the fall in sales of casualwear hurt it because it traditionally makes up a large proportion of its sales at this time of year.

The appointments were welcomed in the City, with shares up 2.5% despite the disappointing sales figures.

Meanwhile, food sales, which were boosted by the celebrations surrounding the Diamond Jubilee, rose 0.6%.

Overall like-for-like sales were 2.8% lower but this was the company's worst performance since the quarter to March 2009.

The group also said the roll-out of its new design of stores was on track, after it previously admitted its outlets were difficult to shop in.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?