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32. Marc Bolland, chief executive, Marks & Spencer

Marc Bolland, CEO,  Marks & Spencer

Position last year: 29

It has not been an easy year for Marc Bolland – but then, it rarely is these days.

The Marks & Spencer boss faces a number of ongoing challenges, not least turning around the retailer’s falling fashion sales. M&S reported a 6.1% increase in underlying pre-tax profit for the year to March 31, but clothing and general merchandise like-for-like sales fell 3.1%. The latter fell by a further 1.2% for the 26 weeks to September 26 as trading suffered in the face of “unseasonal conditions”.

However, Bolland has made progress against his previously stated goal of improving its gross margin by moving to more direct sourcing and reducing M&S’s reliance on discounting. Gross margin for general merchandise was up 285 basis points during the first half, beating the 150-to-200 basis point forecast. Under his watch, the high street stalwart has set itself the target for directly designing and sourcing 70% its clothing by 2017 in a bid to further improve gross margin.

Bolland also took the departure of executive director of general merchandise John Dixon in July and womenswear director Frances Russell in August in his stride, respectively promoting Steve Rowe (number 73) and Jo Jenkins into the roles and presenting a confident, united front at the spring 16 preview in November. Bolland’s perseverance – particularly in the face of regular speculation about his future – can be applauded, and the retailer has still not lost its shine on the high street, scooping the Fashion Retailer of the Year – Consumer Choice trophy for the third year running at the Drapers Awards in November.

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