Blog: Leonie BarrieBolland brings change to M&S

Leonie Barrie | 23 November 2009

UK retail giant Marks & Spencer last week ended months of speculation about who will take over the reins as its next chief executive with the surprise appointment of Marc Bolland, the boss of rival supermarket group Morrisons.

Bolland will join M&S – which he described as “one of the world's great brands” – next year, replacing Sir Stuart Rose who will step into the role of part-time chairman.

M&S hopes its new CEO's strengths in marketing and international business will compensate for his lack of experience selling clothes. Having served most recently at food retailer Morrisons and Heineken in the Netherlands, he is yet to clock up any time in non-food retailing. Analysts, too, are hopeful Bolland’s appointment “opens the opportunity for change at M&S.”

US clothing giant Gap Inc is also on track for change after posting a 25% gain in third quarter profit to US$307m. Sales were up 1%, led by a strong performance at the Old Navy chain. Gap says it now wants to build market share this holiday season – helped by its first TV advertising campaign for three years. The aim is to get shoppers into its stores – and, crucially, to get them to spend more once they're there.

Teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has set its sights on international expansion in a bid to offset struggling domestic sales and falling profit. The company also plans to add lower-priced items to its line-up instead of relying on markdowns, but says it will “do this in our own handwriting” to avoid undermining its brand position. A&F outlined its plans after posting a 39.3% slump in third quarter profit to $38.8m as sales fell 15%.

Some very tough decisions taken late in 2008 – including the closure of its Geoffrey Beene chain and axing 10% of its workforce – and a recent revenue performance that has confounded expectations, have helped transform Phillips-Van Heusen's fortunes. FY profit forecasts have been adjusted upwards twice, most recently with its decidedly buoyant third quarter results, which saw profit jump 56% to US$83.6m.

An EU vote in favour of ending anti-dumping duties on footwear imports from China and Vietnam should surely mark the end of the saga which has dragged on now for nearly four years. But that’s not necessarily the case. Under EU rules, the majority vote by member states last week is not binding – and the EU's College of Commissioners will now discuss the issue before it goes to vote once more at next month’s Council.

Retailers are urging the EC to accept that any plans for import taxes on shoes from the two Asian countries are dead and buried. Particularly since uncertainties over the duties are making it difficult for them to plan ahead and source footwear from these countries.


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