UK retail giant Marks & Spencer will see current CEO Marc Bolland succeeded by Steve Rowe in April, with Bolland having announced his planned departure well ahead of time.
Like Bolland, Rowe is highly regarded in the retail sector as an experienced merchant and he will take over at the head of the firm in Q2 having previously managed M&S food. At present Rowe directs Marks & Spencer’s clothing and homeware offerings and his father was also a director of the leading British retailer until 2000.
Bolland’s departure is something of a surprise but was announced as M&S published a big drop in recent clothing sales. Bolland will be leaving the company with a £1.5 million pay-off, as he will continue to be paid until January 2017, after continuing to support Rowe in his new role until June of this year.
That arrangement will see Bolland receive nearly £900,000 in basic pay and other benefits and nearly £656,000 in shares. He already owns a stake in M&S estimated to be worth £3m. He could also earn a bonus of nearly £1.95m in cash and shares this year, plus more than £1.5m in additional shares, according to The Guardian newspaper.
M&S have recorded only a single quarterly increase in clothing sales over the past five years, with rivals taking an increasing market share. However, senior M&S figures have been supportive of Bolland and insist he was under no pressure to depart.
Indeed, food sales were strong in Q4 of 2015, as M&S food enjoyed its best ever Christmas. Food and drinks numbers at M&S have been on the rise steadily over most of the last decade.
Bolland remains upbeat about M&S’s status and his own role in the recent development of the business. The Guardian report that Bolland believes he has made a significant contribution to the ‘heavy lifting’ of modernising the company, by improving distribution, enhancing IT infrastructure, breathing life into the food offering, overseeing a strengthening in online services for customers and raising the quality of clothing on sale.
He described M&S as a “financially healthy and talented company” and went on to add, “The business is better in style, quality and margin as never before. You will see over the next quarters the benefits of that and if that is after my time I don’t mind. Can I look back and say it is all finished and great? Never. But I have done the heavy lifting that was needed. I am very pleased with what I have done over the last years and think I have built the foundations.”
Bolland holds a number of positions on the boards of large organisations and plans to devote more time to roles where he can give something back. The Dutchman is vice-president of the charity Unicef.