April 11 - British retailer Marks & Spencer posted a seventh consecutive quarterly fall in clothing sales, heaping more pressure on its CEO Marc Bolland. Hayley Platt reports.
Three years after taking the top job at Marks & Spencer sales are still falling. Marc Bolland was tasked with turning around the fortunes of the British retailer. But the latest quarterly sales figures for clothing and homeware show a 3.8 percent fall. That's better then the previous quarter - causing shares to rise 4% - but it's sill the seventh fall in a row. Overall like-for-like sales were up 0.6 percent - thanks to good food sales. But Kantar Retail's Bryan Roberts says M and S is mis-understanding its customers. SOUNDBITE: Bryan Roberts, Director of Retail Insights, Kantar Retail, saying (English) "M&S still really has no clear idea of who it's target shopper is or how best to reach out to those shoppers and give them what they want. There's huge competition across and M&S really lacks clarity and focus in terms of what it's actually trying to achieve." M&S has been in business for almost 130 years. It serves 21 million customers a week and has over 700 UK stores. But in recent years it's lost market share. Women's clothing - a key product - has been labelled old-fashioned. Bolland has appointed a new management team for womenswear but investors are growing impatient. SOUNDBITE: Bryan Roberts, Director of Retail Insights, Kantar Retail, saying (English) "I think there's a growing sense of frustration among investors that a big turnaround in womenswear hasn't been achieved yet and clearly there's more promises of jam tomorrow with a new fashion team in place. They'll be lot's of anticipation when that key autumn winter range for 2013 is unveiled in May. I think that could be make or break for him." There's a sense from analysts that the company's chairman is looking for stability rather than revolution. And on the upside, it's food business is doing well. Sales rose 4 percent, helping support the groups overall growth. But that alone may not safeguard Bolland - his latest womanswear collection needs to be a success.