M&S marketing chief Sharp to step down

Marks and Spencer’s marketing chief Steve Sharp is to retire after nine years in the job and will be replaced by former president of Estee Lauder Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne.

Marks and Spencer’s incoming marketing chief has helped develop its new strategy to kickstart clothing sales.

Sharp, who is credited with developing the ‘Your M&S’ branding, will step down next month. He will stay with the retailer until February as creative director.

Bousquet-Chavanne, who joined just 7 months ago as director of strategy implementation and business development, will be handed a broader brief than Sharp with oversight of marketing and business development. He is said to have been instrumental in developing the recent “perfectly” spring/ summer campaign for its womenswear.

The switch comes as M&S reports another disappointing performance by its clothing unit. General merchandise sales, which include clothing and homeware receipts, fell 4.1 per cent in the 12 months to 31 March. The slump drove down total sales from stores open for a year or more down by 1 per cent in the period, despite a 1.7 per cent increase in food sales and 16.6 per cent improvement in multi-channel sales.

The sales decline saw profits for the year to 31 March fall 6 per cent to £665.2m, its lowest since 2009.

The retailer is hoping last week’s unveiling of a new strategy in the hope of reasserting its “quality” positioning and revive flagging sales.

John Dixon, executive director of general merchandise and style director Belinda Earl were brought in last year to drive the changes.

Chief executive Marc Bolland says the company is “working hard” in a “challenging market” to get general merchandise sales back on track.

He adds “We are very pleased with food performance which benefitted from our continued focus on delivering innovation, and unrivalled quality and provenance. Our international operations performed well in key markets and our multi-channel business delivered strong growth.”

Neil Saunders, managing director of Conlumino, says M&S needs to “break the mould of its traditional ways” to reverse falling sales.

He adds: “Nowhere is this truer than in store where the shop floor needs a complete reinvention, above and beyond its concept stores. The ultimate aim should be for M&S to feel much more like a department store with each of its own brands having an area which shows off their identity and personality. This would create better shopping experience and make products feel more exclusive. On this front we were discouraged to see a moderation of capital expenditure as we believe M&S now needs to invest more in the store environment in order to give its new ranges the best possible chance of success.”

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