M&S’s Bolland facing a tough Wembley crowd

 
Kasmira Jefford
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HIGH street giant Marks & Spencer is set to host its annual general meeting at Wembley tomorrow, with a stadium-sized crowd hoping for good news.

However City analysts say a prize-winning performance is unlikely, with the retailer expected to post its eighth consecutive quarterly fall in clothing sales, ratcheting up pressure on chief executive Marc Bolland.

The 129 year-old group, which publishes its first-quarter figures on the same day as its shareholder meeting, is expected to post a 1.5 per cent drop in like-for-like sales of general merchandise, which includes fashion and homeware.

M&S’s food business is performing better, with a consensus predicting a 1.6 per cent rise for the 13 weeks to 29 June.

This reflects a slowdown on the same period last year, which included Easter weekend and benefitted from the run-up to the Jubilee bank holiday.

Recent Nielsen figures estimate that M&S food sales saw a 5.9 per cent year-on-year increase in value in the 12 weeks ending 22 June, outperforming the “big four” supermarkets.

This continues the recent trend of food winning out over fashion, despite an overhaul of the division and upbeat reviews of the new ranges.

Cantor Fitzgerald, which has a “sell” rating” on the stock highlighted the “relatively easy comparatives” on last year, when M&S suffered a 6.8 per cent fall in like-for-like clothing sales after it failed to order in enough stock.

But the potential for a turnaround has Panmure Gordon reiterating its “buy” stance.