Unsurprisingly, the papers are dominated by news of the departure of M&S CEO Marc Bolland, examining his legacy, the challenges facing new boss Steve Rowe and mulling over the dire Christmas figures.
The Financial Times writes the M&S results are a “tale of two retailers”, with food sales continuing to rise but fashion division like for likes were much worse than expected. The paper’s Lex column said the retailer’s problem was not operational but structural. “The key question does not concern M&S’s ability to find appealing women’s clothing for its stores. It is whether the era of people buying their dresses and smoked salmon from the same store — or more to the point, under the same brand name — is grinding inevitably towards its close. If so, the job of the next CEO, Steve Rowe, is not to revive general merchandise, but to limit the damage it causes to an industry-leading grocery business.”
The Daily Mail questions whether Marc Bolland’s surprise exit could trigger the departure of two of his most prominent female executives and a boardroom reshuffle. The paper also asks how in the face of frumpy clothes, outdated stores and stock flow problems can M&S be made to sparkle again? It adds that new boss Steve Rowe has some big challenges ahead.
The Telegraph notes that Steve Rowe needs to return the retailer to its core values, while The Independent writes that he has a hard fight ahead to retain the cutting edge, with some analysts advocating that M&S’s fashion buyers should give up on attracting younger women. Shares in M&S rose on the news of the departure, with the jump being dubbed “the Bolland bounce” (The Telegraph).
The Guardian writes in its business editorial that Marks & Spencer is not dying but it is wounded. The paper adds that trying to heal it is turned out to be much harder than Marc Bolland expected. Nils Pratley argues Bolland’s dash for the door was well-timed. He also points out that the verdict on Bolland’s reign is better than his critics make out. “Under Bolland, M&S has averaged a total return, meaning dividends plus share price growth, of about 10% a year. Not bad.” Alex Brummer of The Daily Mail concurs writing: “The speed with which Marc Bolland’s critics moved to dance on his grave with his departure from Marks and Spencer is unedifying.” He added that the M&S he inherited needed a great deal of refurbishment, with much of it not visible to the naked eye. The FT lays out the full story of Bolland’s reign with a timeline of his significant moments.
Elsewhere, Sainsbury’s takeover bid for Home Retail is still gaining traction, with The Daily Mail reporting that City experts have placed their bets on Sainsbury’s upping its offer as it emerged former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy had eyed the Argos owner. Analysts at Citigroup raised their price target on Home Retail shares and said there was a 70% chance Sainsbury’s would increase its offer. The Times reports that despite investors and analysts being sceptical about the move, consumers seem happy at the prospect. Sainsbury’s also hit back at The Guardian’s claims that its largest shareholder could stand in the way of its attempted £1bn-plus takeover. The supermarket group said in an announcement to the London Stock Exchange that it understood that the Qatar Investment Authority had “not taken any position” on a proposed takeover of the owner of Argos and Homebase. The FT writes that Sainsbury’s is expected to close up to a quarter of Argos’s high street stores if it succeeds in taking over Home Retail Group, allowing it to increase the number of concessions stores within its supermarkets from 10 to more than 200 over several years, according to industry sources.
The share price rise and fall of Majestic Wine and Poundland after trading updates yesterday also gets decent coverage today. The Times writes that “Naked ambition puts wine retailer back on track” and The FT said Majestic enjoyed festive spirit with 7% rise in sales. A comment piece in The Times opines that Poundland has been a victim of high street malaise.