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Bolland calls for patience after M&S clothing falls again

Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland has said the retailer has the “foundation for the future” but added that he will take a cautious approach to growth.

Speaking to Drapers as M&S reported its 10th consecutive quarter of like-for-like declines in general merchandise – which includes clothing – last week, Bolland declined to say whether the division would grow this year, insisting it was still a “step-by-step approach”.

General merchandise likefor- likes fell 2.1% for the 13 weeks to December 28 but rose 0.5% for the eight weeks to December 24. Total group sales were up 1.8%, boosted by a stronger performance in food.

Bolland said bad weather and a highly promotional market had affected sales, but noted that womenswear had grown market share by 10 basis points.

The retailer saw dress sales rise 110% on last year, following the creation of in-store zones dedicated to the category. Coat sales were up more than 30% for the same reason.

“[Top-line growth] is not the ultimate indicator of success, so we are not saying [when it will happen]. We have been very clear that we are building the foundation for the future,” Bolland said. “We have had years of completely unclear trend-led product in stores – we have finally addressed that and shareholders understand we have to change cautiously.”

However, M&S saw strong online growth over the quarter – in general merchandise it was up 32%, despite still using an old web platform and its new etail distribution hub at Castle Donington in Leicestershire not being at full capacity.

Bolland noted that M&S’s online gains had seen it rise to become the UK’s third largest fashion etailer, taking 7.2% of market share, and he is aiming to take the number two spot.

“Shop Direct is 7.7%, but it hasn’t grown that much. With our new platform and distribution centre I think we will be more competitive and perhaps in the next 12 months we could breeze through.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • Whilst I think the product is looking much better I wish Mark Bolland would stop blaming the weather. Surely Next and Primark results give him a clear indication that customers are moving away from his shop !

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  • To be fair to Bolland, he inherited a downward spiral but hasn't had the gumption or even idea of what to do about it. Most of their stores are a good example of not what to do. They clearly know what to give the public when it comes to food, its just the direction of the non food business is wrong. M&S used to be there by word for quality, but the company thinks value is being cheap. Wrong.

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