M&S expected to reveal weak non-food sales

RETAIL giant Marks & Spencer (M&S) is expected to announce weak first-quarter sales at its annual meeting tomorrow, after clothing sales were hit hard by the poor weather.

A consensus forecast of 12 analysts compiled by the company predicts a 6.7 per cent drop in clothing and homeware sales compared to the same period last year.

This is expected to translate into a three per cent drop in overall sales, with 0.8 per cent sales growth in the firm’s food division going some way to make up for falls elsewhere.

Such results would represent the worst quarterly figures in three years.

“Unfavourable weather has clearly paid a part in the poor general merchandise performance, although with John Lewis continuing to post growth and Debenhams reporting strong UK trading, we think there is an element of poor execution at play,” said Richard Cathcart, an analyst at Espirito Santo.

Investors will be keen to clarify the future of executive Kate Bostock at the AGM, with M&S declining to deny press reports that the head of non-food products is set to leave the firm.

If Bostock leaves she will be following M&S’s head of menswear, Richard Price, who quit last month to become managing director of Bhs department stores.

Meanwhile chief executive Marc Bolland will face questions over the size of his pay deal after corporate governance lobby group Pirc recommended investors abstain from voting on the firm’s remuneration report.

M&S has had a turbulent 2012, with shares in the firm dropping by 18 per cent since mid March.