Marks & Spencer announces management changes following 7% drop in clothing, general merchandise sales in most recent quarter; John Dixon, currently in charge of food, will replace Kate Bostock, executive director for general merchandise, effective Oct. 1

Cindy Allen

Cindy Allen

Jul 10, 2012 – Associated Press

LONDON , July 10, 2012 () – U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer said Tuesday it is shaking up its management team following a 7 percent drop in clothing and general merchandise sales in the three months to June 30.

Kate Bostock, the executive director for general merchandise, will leave the company on Oct. 1 by mutual consent, the company said.

John Dixon, now in charge of food, will replace her, and Belinda Earl, former CEO of Debenhams, Jaeger and Aquascutum, will join Dixon's team as style director.

M&S also announced that Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, a former group president of Estee Lauder, will join the company on Sept. 1 as director of strategy implementation and business development.

M&S shares were up 0.5 percent at 322.50 pence in early trading in London.

"Clothing still accounts for roughly half of profits ... so issues there are in need of a solution and the management changes are thus positive," said Bethany Hocking analyst at Investec Securities.

In a quarter distinguished by unusually wet and cool weather in Britain, M&S group sales were down 0.7 percent.

Total U.K. sales were down 0.9 percent, or down 2.8 percent excluding the contributions of new store space. Food sales were up 0.6 percent on a like-for-like stores basis while general merchandise was down 6.8 percent.

"The clothing market continued to be highly promotional throughout the quarter, especially in women's wear, in part due to unseasonal weather conditions," the company said. "This affected categories such as casual tops, which, given our high market share, are key performance drivers at this time of year."

M&S said markets in India and China posted double-digit sales growth, but international sales were hit by weakness of the euro and the struggling economies in Ireland and Greece.

"The fact that M&S appears to be losing share of the ladies' wear market, is a concern, perhaps the deepest concern of all with respect to the company's performance at present," said Darren Shirley, analyst at Shore Capital, who said he was reviewing his "buy" rating on the shares.

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