Bottom Line: CEO’s survival will depend on a revolution

Elizabeth Fournier
YESTERDAY marked a very unwelcome milestone for Marks & Spencer’s boss Marc Bolland. Three-and-a-half years into the job, the former Morrisons chief exec has clocked up his 10th successive quarter of declining clothing sales, leaving investors waiting for his promised turnaround yet again.

That they’re giving him more time – as evidenced by yesterday’s 3.6 per cent share price rise – is hard to believe. Bolland has been promising a change in the retailer’s struggling fashion sales for months and committed significant time and money to the cause, bringing in a new style director (Belinda Earl) and splashing his leading ladies campaign, starring Helen Mirren et al, all over billboards to promote the revamp.

It’s not working. Though the company insists time and again that its clothing collections have been well-received by the fashion press, a nod from Vogue means nothing unless your products are flying off the shelf.

In the meantime M&S is trying to be all things to all people, but has ended up failing on every count – as one retail analyst said yesterday, “there’s always a danger of turning up to your grandmother’s 80th to find you are both wearing the same M&S dress”.

Something has got to give. If Bolland – who surely must have used up several of his nine lives – doesn’t want it to be him, he needs to act fast. First on his list should be striking a deal to get M&S’s booming food business online, while at the same time stripping back the clothing lines to focus on the good quality basics on which the brand built its name. If he doesn’t do it, someone else will.

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