M&S boss to go after festive sales slump


High street giant Marks & Spencer said boss Marc Bolland will retire in April after six years at the helm as it posted a dire Christmas performance from its womenswear division.

Mr Bolland will be replaced by the head of the chain's general merchandise business, Steve Rowe, who has worked at M&S for more than 25 years.

Details of the change at the top came as M&S revealed like-for-like sales in its general merchandise arm, which includes clothing, slumped by 5.8% in the 13 weeks to December 26. The weak figures were blamed on unusually mild weather and poor stock availability.

Mr Bolland said it had been "a huge honour to lead one of Britain's most iconic companies".

He added: "I am delighted to hand over to Steve Rowe as my successor. I have worked closely with Steve for six years and I am convinced that he will be a great leader for Marks & Spencer."

Mr Bolland, who took on the post of chief executive in early 2010, will hand over to Mr Rowe at the end of the group's financial year on April 2, but will remain on hand to help with the handover until the end of June.

Robert Swannell, chairman of M&S, paid tribute to Mr Bolland's achievements at the top.

He said: "Over the last six years Marc Bolland has led Marks & Spencer through a period of necessary change."

"It is now positioned for a digital age, with its own online platform and dedicated e-commerce distribution centre, improved design and sourcing capabilities in general merchandise and an industry-leading track record of growth and innovation in the food business," he said.

But the announcement comes after further woes in the group's troubled clothing division, with Mr Bolland admitting the performance over the festive season was "disappointing".

The fall in like-for-like sales, which followed a 1.9% drop in the previous three months, came as the group resisted pressure to discount early despite widespread sales launched on the high street ahead of Christmas as mild weather hit demand for winter clothing.

There was better news from the chain's food halls, as it hailed its "best ever Christmas", with a 0.4% rise in like-for-like sales over the quarter to December 26 against challenging conditions in the sector.