M&S shares surge 3% despite fall in clothing sales

Steve Rowe, the new head of British retailer Marks and Spencer yesterday conceded he had his work cut out to end five years of almost constant falls in clothing sales after the firm suffered another quarterly decline.

Nonetheless, the company’s shares rose 3% as investors put their trust in the new CEO.

Mr Rowe, a company veteran of 26 years, succeeded Marc Bolland , taking on arguably the most high-profile job in British retail. He moved up from the role he took only last July as head of the troubled clothing and home division.

While Mr Bolland oversaw an impressive performance from M&S’s food business and rebuilt the group’s logistics, he failed to deliver an accompanying rise in clothing sales.

“Let me be really clear: This performance was not good enough,” Mr Rowe said of a 2.7% fall in clothing and home sales at stores open over a year in the 13 weeks to March 26, M&S’s fiscal fourth quarter.

“Our priority is fixing our clothing business,” he said. The fourth quarter outcome for clothing and home, which contributes about 60% of M&S’s profit, was better than analysts’ forecasts.

However, it meant the division has enjoyed just one quarter of like-for-like sales growth in 21 quarters. M&S is due to report results next month.

“Given Rowe’s nature — dynamic, active, and to the point — we anticipate that M&S will enter a period of further change,” said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black.



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