M&S warns of tough decisions ahead

UK high street stalwart Marks and Spencer invoked the improving fortunes of England’s footballers at its annual meeting on Tuesday, as it pushes ahead with its own reinvention.

The official tailor to the team, which on Wednesday faces Croatia in the semi-final of the World Cup, held its AGM at the home of English football, Wembley. It left shareholders in no doubt that it would continue to face up to tough decisions.

Steve Rowe, chief executive, warned that there would be more redundancies as it closed “stores that do not make any money and are uninvestable” and spent more on technology. “We are not digital in an age where most retail starts with a mobile phone.”

Appearing at his first AGM as M&S chairman, Archie Norman used the “ burning platform” analogy made famous by former Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop — who likened the company’s predicament to that of a man on a “burning platform” torn between being burnt alive and jumping into icy waters.

Fixing M&S, Mr Norman said on Tuesday was a task that would stretch to the next World Cup and beyond.

“Results in the next two years are not the most important thing,” he said. “We’re here to deliver a profitable growing business in five years’ time.”

He defined the start date of that project as last November, when he and Mr Rowe jointly presented a turnround plan, rather than 2016 when Mr Rowe became chief executive.

Shareholders were broadly supportive. “We are going through a lot of change. It’s about survival,” said one employee shareholder, who did not wish to give their name.

“We cannot expect success overnight. But it’s still an institution. It’s something we are very proud of,” said another.


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