New M&S boss starts with familiar sales decline

British retailer Marks & Spencer on Thursday reported another fall in quarterly underlying sales in its clothing division, illustrating the extent of the challenge facing its new boss.

Steve Rowe succeeded Marc Bolland as chief executive of the 132-year-old clothing and food stores group on Saturday and started his tenure with a familiar sales decline in the general merchandise division, which consists of clothing, footwear and homeware.

Carl Court | AFP | Getty Images

For the 13 weeks to March 26, M&S's fiscal fourth quarter, sales of general merchandise at stores open over a year fell 2.7 percent.

Though that was better than analysts' consensus forecast of a 3.4 percent decline and a third quarter fall of 5.8 percent, it still meant the division has enjoyed just one quarter of like-for-like sales growth in 21 quarters.

M&S did, however, guide to a rise in full-year general merchandise gross margin of 240 to 250 basis points, compared with a previous forecast of the top end of 200 to 250 points.

All other trading guidance was unchanged.

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