M&S shares dive on fears of an autumn fashion chill


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The Independent Online

Shares in Marks & Spencer closed down almost 3% last night, their biggest fall in almost two months, as concerns rose in the City about sales of make-or-break autumn-winter fashion ranges.

Simon Irwin, a retail analyst for Credit Suisse, last night slashed his sales estimates for the past three months in M&S’s non-food division. Where previously he had predicted a 0.5% rise, he now expects to see a fall of 1.5%.

He wrote: “While the long-awaited autumn-winter ranges show some signs of improvement, we do not believe they are sufficient to transform like-for-like sales or margins over the next year.”

If he is proved right next month, it could prove deeply embarrassing for the retailer’s under-pressure chief executive Marc Bolland, who would then have presided over a ninth consecutive quarterly fall for the company’s non-food division.

The autumn-winter collection, widely praised by critics, was seen as his last chance to turn around the company’s fortunes. However, a warm autumn has affected several fashion retailers, with customers opting to wait before buying warmer clothing.

M&S declined to comment but a source close to the company pointed out that Mr Irwin has been a bear of the company for several years.

The womenswear division has proved difficult for M&S in the past few years, prompting major overhauls. A new head of general merchandise, John Dixon, was appointed last year after the previous boss, Kate Bostock, oversaw a fiasco that led to not enough stock in stores. A new creative team was also brought in.