M&S boss fights back after half year improves

Kasmira Jefford
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MARKS & SPENCER chief executive Marc Bolland yesterday asked for “a little patience” before seeing a turnaround in its troubled womenswear division and defended his strategy as the group revealed a 10 per cent fall in half year profits to £289.5m.

The Dutchman, who is 18 months into a five-year plan to revive the group’s fortunes, made sweeping changes to his senior management team in July after reporting its worst quarterly sales in three years.

The high street bellwether yesterday unveiled like-for-like general merchandise sales were down 1.8 per cent in the second quarter, an improvement on the seven per cent slump in the previous period. Like-for-like sales at its food division rose 1.6 per cent.

Bolland said the company was addressing setbacks it experienced earlier the year, when stock management issues left it short of best-selling items such as coats and knitwear.

He also admitted that M&S had not been fashionable enough in the past and said it was taking bolder moves to back key trends, selling 44,000 military-style coats in the first half. He added that the influence of the new management team led by John Dixon would not be seen until next year’s autumn/winter season.

Bolland insisted M&S was firmly on track to achieving its goal of becoming a multi-channel retailer and said it was “leading the pack” in mobile. Online sales rose by 18 per cent in the half year, outperforming the sector by eight per cent.