Marks & Spencer chairman and chief executive Sir Stuart Rose was re-elected to the board by shareholders at the company’s AGM.
However, more than 20% of the investor base either abstained or voted against his re-election in a show of protest against his promotion to executive chairman.
Despite talk of a shareholder revolt prior to the meeting, the event passed without the grilling that had been predicted following his appointment in the dual executive role at the business.
Non-executive deputy chairman Sir David Michels said it was in the best interests to retain Rose in a leadership role, and that the decision about the appointment was unanimous with the board.
“He is the leading architect of the group’s turnaround and has the right set of skills to complete the job he started. In uncertain economic times, continuity becomes more important,” said Michels.
However, Rose was forced to defend a 60% drop in the retailer’s share price at the company’s AGM in London today.
Rose acknowledged that the shares, which were at 234p, had dropped considerably since the beginning of the year. But he said the fall was part of a loss of confidence in the retail sector as a whole.
“The share price at Next and Debenhams has dropped a similar amount,” said Rose. “There’s little appetite for customer-facing stocks at the moment and that includes retail.”
The M&S boss also fielded criticism of the clothing ranges from concerned shareholders who said that the fashionability and sizing was out of kilter with its core customer base.
Rose said that clothing market share was increasing and that returns of womenswear product were at their lowest since 1999.
Rose added that the company was in a strong position to ride out the economic downturn, pointing to its increase in market share in clothing, its investment in stores and international expansion.