Marks & Spencer’s Bolland to be replaced by M&S veteran Steve Rowe

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

M&S’s Steve Rowe is to take over from Marc Bolland as ceo in April
M&S’s Steve Rowe is to take over from Marc Bolland as ceo in April

Related tags Board of directors

Marks & Spencer (M&S) today announced that its ceo Marc Bolland will stand down in April and be replaced by Steve Rowe, its executive director of general merchandise.

The news coincided with M&S’s release of its Christmas trading figures, with its food sales providing most cheer in what were some pretty “disappointing”​ results.

Bolland has been ceo with M&S for the past six years, having previously headed up the Morrisons supermarket chain. During his time at M&S, the retailer has been unable to restore its previous strong overall retail performance – particularly for women’s clothing – although analysts have been complimentary about the restructuring work he had undertaken to restore M&S’s fortunes. However, it had continued to perform well as an up-market food and drink retailer, focusing primarily on own-label products.

Bolland will remain ceo and on the board until the end of the current financial year on April 2 2016 when he will hand over to Rowe.

Food sales growth

Rowe has been with M&S for more than 25 years and been a board member since 2012. Before joining the board, he worked in a range of senior positions across the business including director of retail and e-commerce and various positions in general merchandise.

In 2012, he was appointed by Bolland to the executive team as executive director, food and was appointed to the M&S board. In this role, he oversaw 12 consecutive quarters of like-for-like (LFL) growth and margin growth in food sales.

He was appointed executive director, general merchandise in July 2015.

Commenting on his appointment, Rowe said: “It is a great privilege to be appointed ceo of Marks & Spencer and to have the opportunity to lead this unique company and all its people forward.”

M&S’s said its third quarter results for the 13 weeks to December 26 represented an “excellent Christmas in food”​ but “general merchandise sales down”​. Food sales for the period were up 3.7% (up 0.4% on a LFL basis), with record sales up 17% in the key Christmas week. But general merchandise sales were down -5.0% (-5.8% LFL).

‘Excellent Christmas in food’

“M&S had an excellent Christmas in food, delivering record Christmas sales and strongly outperforming the market,”​ said Bolland.

“General merchandise ​[GM] sales were disappointing. We continued to prioritise gross margin and held back from the heavy discounting seen across the market in the run up to Christmas. As a result, we now expect GM gross margin to be at the top end of the guided range.”

Following the announcements, Shore Capital analyst Clive Black noted that Bolland had “done a lot of very good work to fundamentally modernise and reposition M&S to be fit for the future in sustainably challenging markets”​.

He added: “Rowe has a much stronger platform with which to take the business forward than Mr Bolland inherited”.

Black added that M&S’s food sales had been boosted by new store openings. “With such a performance M&S will have gained market share and we see this as highly creditable,”​ he said. 

M&S is also reported to have begun a trial scheme to increase the size of its food halls.

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