Marks & Spencer turnaround will be centre stage this week

Marks & Spencer is this week set to report another disappointing quarter for its embattled clothing division

Marks and Spencer (M&S) new advert
Marks and Spencer (M&S) new advert

Marks & Spencer is this week set to report another disappointing quarter for its embattled clothing division.

Under-pressure Mark & Spencer boss Marc Bolland is expected to unveil an eleventh successive quarter of falling sales in its clothing division when the high street stalwart publishes its latest trading update on Thursday.

It will mean the chief executive, appointed in May 2010, has overseen nearly three straight years of declining quarterly like-for-like revenues in the retailer’s general merchandise (GM) arm – which includes fashion.

Mr Bolland said there had been “encouraging signs” at the last trading update, covering the 13 weeks to December 28, despite a 2.1% fall in GM sales. But a consensus average from six analysts forecasts a 1% fall in the latest quarter – though a seventh forecast, from Bernstein, predicts a much steeper 2.4% drop.

The continuing declines have come despite concerted attempts to turn around the retailer’s fortunes with new senior personnel and a celebrity marketing push.

At the last update, Mr Bolland blamed unseasonably warm weather for a sharp decline in October but said full-price sales were up in November and December. Sales improved by 0.5% over the eight weeks to Christmas Eve.

But the company warned that reductions in the run-up to Christmas would hit GM profit margins, prompting analysts to cut annual forecasts.

Most analysts expect underlying annual pre-tax profits to fall 6% to £623m when annual results are published on May 20. It will mean the 130-year-old company being overtaken for the first time by rival Next – a relative upstart at 32 years old – which last month announced profits of £695m.

But management will be hoping a recent revamp of its website, which Mr Bolland has put at the heart of his plans for the business, will help it turn around its fortunes.

Meanwhile, there has also been a focus on global expansion with plans recently announced to open 250 stores over the next three years, with the aim of boosting international sales by a quarter and profits by 40%.

Executives at oil giant BP face investors at its annual general meeting on Thursday, a month after it disclosed that boss Bob Dudley’s pay package had more than tripled to US$8.7m (£5.3m) last year despite falling profits.

The group has previously seen significant shareholder revolts over pay. Including his pension, Mr Dudley’s total package was US$13.2m (£8bn).

He was also granted share options worth up to about £7m that will vest over the next few year’s depending on the company’s performance. But annual profits for last year fell 21% to US$13.4bn (£8.3bn) as earnings were hit by a fall in production after assets were sold off, as well as weaker margins in its refining business.

Mothercare’s new interim boss Mark Newton-Jones will be looked to for further details on a recovery strategy when the embattled baby products chain updates on Thursday after a torrid past few months.

Former chief executive Simon Calver announced his departure in February six weeks after the company issued a profits warning due to poor Christmas trading in the UK.


David Whetstone
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Graeme Whitfield
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Mark Douglas
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