Marks & Spencer has announced that chief executive Marc Bolland is to step down in April after reporting a 5.8 per cent decline in sales of general merchandise over the thirteen weeks to 26 December.
The retailer insists that the move was not a knee-jerk reaction to the results and that succession planning had been in process for years with Steve Rowe, head of M&S’s food division, already lined up as his successor from April.
John Ibbotson, director of the retail consultancy Retail Vision, said: “After such a dismal Christmas, Marc Bolland has jumped before he was pushed.
“All the excuses in the world about unseasonably warm weather can’t hide the fact that a 5.8% slide in like-for-like non-food sales is little short of dismal.
“M&S’s clothing operation is now a fallen colossus. Years of long-term decline have seen it lose both its identity and market share, and the decision to sacrifice quality in order to cut costs has proved toxic for the brand’s core middle-class customers – who have been deserting in droves.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the High Street bastion however which recorded record sales in the Christmas week at its food division. In light of this the department store will shrink the proportion of its floor space devoted to clothing to place in order to accommodate a trial of larger food halls.