M&S profits drop again as non-food sales slide

Marc Bolland with model Rosie Huntington'Whiteley. Picture: Getty
Marc Bolland with model Rosie Huntington'Whiteley. Picture: Getty
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Marks & Spencer reported falling half-year profits today as it counted the cost of its worst non-food sales performance for three years.

The retail giant posted a fall in underlying pre-tax profits to £297 million from £307m a year earlier after admitting to mistakes in its core womenswear range.

Under-pressure chief executive Marc Bolland offered signs of a turnaround since then, reporting a better-than-feared 1.8 per cent fall in like-for-like non-food sales in the second quarter – a marked improvement on the 6.8 per cent slide seen in the first three months, which marked its worst performance since December 2008.

M&S said it had taken “decisive action” by improving buying and merchandising, while also overhauling its general merchandise team and hiring new managers – including tasking former Debenhams and Jaeger boss Belinda Earl with revitalising womenswear in the newly-created role of style director.

But the group admitted customers would start to see the benefits of its management reshuffle only from next summer.

M&S added that recent trading had been volatile and the second half of the year will be tough as retailers up the ante with promotions.

The half-year results come a day after Frances Russell, who was the retailer’s director of lingerie and beauty, was promoted to the position of director of womenswear.

Russell, a former director of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia, has been at the company for four years and replaces Annette Browne, the womenswear trading director.

Janie Schaffer, currently chief creative officer at lingerie firm Victoria’s Secret, will succeed Russell early next year.