M&S head under fire over results

Marc Bolland has tried investors' patience, with another drop in clothes sales expected Tuesday

Marks & Spencer is expected to reveal a ninth consecutive quarter of falling sales in its clothes and homeware division this week in a move likely to heap further pressure on its struggling boss Marc Bolland.

The 54-year-old Dutchman is hoping to convince investors that the retailer's autumn/winter collection will mark a turning point in its fortunes following three years of under-performance since he took over in May 2010.

However, analysts believe the company's sales are likely to have suffered due to an unseasonably warm September, which meant customers put off buying their winter wardrobes.

The company did not update the City with its sales figures for the three months to end of September, saving the data for Tuesday's interims, but at least three analysts have already downgraded the business with general merchandise like-for-like sales expected to be down between 0.4 per cent and 2.5 per cent. Pre-tax profits are expected to be around £262m, down almost 10 per cent on the same period last year.

The predicted fall in sales and profits is likely to test shareholders' patience, with one top ten investor telling The Independent on Sunday that Mr Bolland is slowly losing their confidence.

He said: "We've heard anecdotally that things are improving but we haven't see any hard evidence yet that he [Mr Bolland] is turning around the business. If we don't start to see something in the results, the pressure on him will increase and questions will be asked."

Marks & Spencer point out that the results on Tuesday only reveal sales up to the end of September, with a fuller picture of its autumn/winter collection's success due in January.

Food sales are expected to perform well, with a rise of between 3 and 3.2 per cent, while total UK sales will be up between 0.5 and 1.2 per cent.

Another shareholder was less concerned by Mr Bolland's future and said the problems are longer term, with customers being lost to rivals on the high street and online.

He said: "The company is running very hard to not stand still, which isn't necessarily a recipe for success. The high street has changed over the past couple of decades and Marks & Spencer has clearly not kept on top of areas like online as others have.

"It sounds harsh but there are much more attractive investments in the sector."

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