No M&S bonus after fall in profits


%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Bosses and staff at Marks and Spencer will receive no bonus this year after profits fell for a third year in a row, piling pressure on chief executive Marc Bolland.

Mr Bolland will miss out for the first time since taking over in 2010, having received a cash and shares bonus worth £829,000 last year to take his full package to £2.1 million.
A discretionary bonus package for thousands of workers across the company will also not be paid.

It comes after underlying pre-tax profits for the year to the end of March fell 3.9% to £623 million, their lowest level since 2009.

Promotions and markdowns as M&S battled for sales over Christmas ate away at margins during a year when the general merchandise (GM) division - including clothing - saw like-for-like sales fall 1.4%, though food improved 1.7%.

Mr Bolland has been under pressure as the retailer's performance stuttered despite turnaround efforts including a £2.3 billion investment drive over the last three years, the hiring of new fashion executives and a celebrity-driven marketing push.

He said: "No bonuses will be paid out to the whole company. There are no bonuses this year."

The announcement will apply to all M&S employees from the boardroom to the shopfloor. The group employs 82,000 people around the world.

The last time that a discretionary bonus for shop floor staff at M&S was not paid was in the 2008/9 financial year, a period covering the height of the recession when underlying pre-tax profits fell to £604.4 million.

Last year, full-time shop floor staff received £215 each. Marks employs 75,000 staff in the UK, including 65,000 customer service assistants.

Bonuses were paid out to six members of the board last year totalling more than £3 million, with Mr Bolland receiving the highest sum followed by John Dixon, executive director of the struggling GM division.

He received £546,000, taking his total annual pay to £1.3 million.

Directors will receive no bonuses this year because the company failed to meet performance targets including pre-tax profits.

Board members also received no additional pay-out in 2007/8 despite profits of more than £1 billion, as targets were missed. But bonuses did go to staff that year.

Mr Bolland has missed the sales target of £11.5 billion to £12.5 billion for 2013/14 that he set months after taking over in 2010. The actual figure was £10.3 billion.

He declined the opportunity to give himself a score out of 10 for his performance since becoming chief executive, saying: "We don't give ourselves a rating on that."

Mr Bolland admitted that the target had not been reached because "GM has not improved enough" but defended his record in the face of the sluggish performance of the wider UK economy.

The chief executive added that "more needed to be done than I thought at the time" to overhaul the business.

Today's profit figure confirms that the 130-year-old high street stalwart has seen its earnings overtaken by 32-year-old upstart Next, which earlier this year reported a full-year haul of £695 million.

Shares fell nearly 4% during today's trading as the group warned the switchover to a new website earlier this year would hit general merchandise sales in the first quarter of the current financial year, though annual web sales for 2013/14 rose 23%.

M&S said clothing sales would continue the improving trend seen in the fourth quarter but that GM's performance would be hit as the new site would need four to six months to "settle in".

Finance director Alan Stewart said it was the same in any "dotcom transition".

"When we move the milk in the supermarket, the customer doesn't always know where the milk is," he said. "The navigation journey is different."

Mr Stewart denied there had been logistics problems at its flagship new depot at Castle Donington.

Meanwhile, the group ditched plans for a new distribution centre at London Gateway in Essex, saying this would save £130 million of investment.

Mr Bolland said that while Marks had suffered from markdowns amid tough competition in the latest financial year, this year would be different.

The number of standalone food stores continued to expand amid the continuing success of this part of the group but there would be no more growth in GM space over the next three years.

But he maintained that he was bullish about the division's prospects, saying: "We have a very healthy confidence in the future of GM."

Mr Bolland said it was showing "early signs of improvement", with investment being ploughed in to transform the business.

"We are making solid progress on this journey and are now focused on delivery," the chief executive said.

M&S said it had continued to make improvements in buying and merchandising and worked hard "to improve newness and availability".

But the company said: "We faced a challenging clothing market, with unseasonal conditions and high levels of promotional activity."

International sales were up 6.2% amid a ramping up of global expansion plans. It added 22 new overseas stores over the last financial year, focusing on key markets in India and China.

Shanghai saw double digit growth but closer to home sales fell 5% in Ireland. M&S also took a £22 million balance sheet hit on the value of its international stores including poorly performing stores elsewhere in China, and in the Czech Republic.

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