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New Marks & Spencer Boss Unhappy With Q4 Clothing Sales

Marks & Spencer’s new chief executive officer Steve Rowe has a tough road ahead of him.

The British retail chain reported fourth-quarter results Thursday that included yet another decline in clothing and home sales, and Rowe, who assumed the role on Saturday, called the performance “unsatisfactory.”

“Turning around our clothing and home business by improving our customer offer is our number one priority,” he said, reiterating his intent to lead the division for the foreseeable future.

Sales in clothing and home decreased 1.9% in the 13 weeks ended Mar. 26 and like-for-likes fell 2.7%, due to fewer promotions in stores and online. However, this was better than the 2.5% decline expected by analysts and helped boost gross profit margin, which is now projected to be between 240 and 250 basis points, and the strategy is something Marks & Spencer said will continue going forward.

A press release noted a number of changes the retailer has made to its clothing business in recent months, including improving its ranges and designs, sharpening prices on particular lines, and launching its spring/summer offering with a lot more product than last year.

As a result, sales of its Autograph brand, which mixes tailoring with the latest fashion trends, were up 10 percent in the last quarter, but the retailer admitted that several problem areas still need to be addressed.