Marc Bolland’s experience with Morrisons is likely to make a difference at Marks & Spencer’s food division, but he is little-known in the world of fashion retail.
Marc Bolland’s supermarket experience is likely to make a difference at Marks & Spencer’s food division, which has suffered at the hands of the big four grocers and Waitrose.
The appointment of John Dixon as food boss in July 2008 has helped stem the decline of the food arm – although first-half like-for-likes were still negative, the trend has improved for four consecutive quarters.
Bolland has won praise for extending Morrisons’ reach in food and bolstering its credentials for value and quality. Both are traditional M&S food characteristics that could be further emphasised to improve sales.
Addressing the food problems is vital because food accounts for such a big proportion of M&S sales. Last year food turnover was £4.25bn compared with £3.92bn in general merchandise.
Planet Retail global research director Bryan Roberts said: “Bolland has done a fantastic job of underscoring Morrisons’ credentials for value for money, fresh and provenance. He’s also underlined service and done a great job in convincing a lot of non-Morrisons shoppers to go there.”
Roberts said M&S has “by far the weakest” value proposition and should focus on its traditional values. He said: “It’s been pioneering and needs to get back to being about innovation and high quality.”
Former M&S chairman and chief executive Sir Richard Greenbury said: “I’ve been very impressed by what Morrisons has done at the quality end while keeping the traditional customer base. M&S has always stood for high quality at affordable prices.”
There is no indication that Dixon, a contender to succeed Rose, will leave M&S. Greenbury said he has done a good job. “His problem was he hadn’t been on the board long enough,” he said.
In the world of fashion retail Marc Bolland is not a name known by many.
He has unquestionably proven himself in the grocery sector but Bolland has no fashion, homewares or multichannel experience.
This has led some in the sector to question the appointment. Tesco clothing boss Terry Green said: “I’m surprised at the appointment as he doesn’t have any clothing experience. He will have to rely on the people there already to unravel what’s gone wrong in clothing. But they probably don’t think anything has gone wrong with clothing.”
Another retail consultant said: “You don’t need to be a gourmet chef to run a food business but clothing is different. You need to know the industry and understand the nuances and seasonality.”
M&S has the constant battle of trying to appeal to a broad range of ages and styles and has been trying to extend that with the introduction of new lines. It has also had to battle against the value sector and growing competitiveness of the middle market.
At its investor day last month, which had been dubbed an X-Factor-style audition for a new chief, Bostock also identified homewares as a huge opportunity for the retailer and wants to grow its share in the sector.
The MBS Group managing partner Moira Benigson said that if he gets on with Bostock there is no reason it won’t be a good fit. “If she had wanted to be a chief executive she would have been one at another fashion company already. Now is her chance to have some fun.”
Per Una trading director Andrew Skinner said: “We’ve got a very strong clothing team and we’ll carry on doing what we’ve been doing. Kate [Bostock] leads the clothing team and she’s fantastic at what she does.”
M&S Food (26 weeks to September 26)
- Total sales up 1.8%
- Like-for-likes down 0.3%
- Market share 3.5%
- Gross margin down 65 basis points
- Dine in for two for £10 deal generated 4.5 million meal sales
- Innovation target of 25% newness per year
M&S Non-Food (26 weeks to September 26)
- Total sales up 1.7%
- Like-for-likes down 1.4%
- Value market share 10.1%
- Homewares market share 2.8%
- Launches of new fashion ranges Portfolio and Indigo
- Targeting 10% reduction SKUs across general merchandise
- Growing share in kidswear
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