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Bolland positive in face of tough M&S results

The pressure on Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland to turn the business around has failed to lift, despite the retailer billing its half-year results as showing the “transformation is on track”.

M&S revealed this week that underlying pre-tax profit fell 9% in the six months to September 28 to £261m, with like-for-likes in general merchandise falling 1.5%. There was a slight tailing off in the decline within the period, from a 1.6% drop in the first three months to a 1.3% drop in the second quarter.

General merchandise, which includes clothing sales, has now declined for nine consecutive quartrs. Total group sales rose 3.6% to £4.9bn. But the autumn 13 collection, which was fully launched in September and on which M&S is pinning its hopes to turn around the clothing business, only accounts for three weeks of this six-month period.

Bolland said 80% of the new range, which was supported by the Leading Ladies advertising campaign featuring Dame Helen Mirren and Tracey Emin, had sold through in six weeks.

However he acknowledged the retailer had too few units in some cases.

Drapers understands staff morale has remained low, despite attempts by senior management to give the team more direction, with one former senior staffer saying things were “still all over the place”.

The number of recent departures – which has included directors and buying heads – is also believed to have affected the team.

But Bolland said this was a “healthy” number of departures and highlighted a rise in internal measures of staff engagement to an all-time high.

“Staff tell me ‘Marc, hang in there’,” he said, noting that the team had “more bench strength than ever before.”

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