Vision of chain to be outlined

New M&S boss ‘to cut prices and review stores’

Marks & SpencerMarks & Spencer’s new chief executive Steve Rowe will this week announce price cuts in its troubled clothing range and may set out plans to close low-performing stores.

Mr Rowe’s focus will on tackling the struggling womenswear division which eluded his predecessor Marc Bolland, despite heavy expenditure in new ranges and promotion.

At least one shareholder has also indicated a need to review the stores portfolio amid growing concern that as online sales increase the company has too much floorspace. M&S has more shops than any of its rivals.

M&S’s sixth-largest shareholder, the fund manager Columbia Threadneedle, said: “Space re-allocation and potential disposals will likely be discussed on May 25.”

Mr Rowe will outline his vision with Wednesday’s annual results which are expected to show a 2% rise in annual pre-tax profits.

Daily Business Comment: It has long been our view that M&S is making a number of fundamental misjudgements on its clothing range.

  1. It should stop trying to appeal to the twentysomething customers and instead should focus on selling clothes to the over 35s and over 55s who still want to look fashionable and stylish, particularly in relation to work wear and every day clothing.
  2. Young shoppers like to choose from a range of well-known brands such as Ted Baker, Karen Millen, French Connection and Paul Smith, none of which are stocked by M&S but are available in John Lewis.
  3. Instead M&S chooses to focus on its own brands which therefore only have value to the M&S shopper. However, shoppers are confused by the proliferation of these brands.
  4. If M&S wants to attract a younger clientele it should consider carving out one or more of these brands and setting up stand alone stores (similar to its Simply Food chain) or else seek concessions in other stores.

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