M&S boss promises to refocus on own brand

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Marks and Spencer's (M&S) new chief executive, Marc Bolland, has outlined his strategy which includes refocusing on the M&S brand by reducing the number of clothing sub-brands.

Up to £900m is to be invested over the next three years in new and existing stores to try to boost profits.

M&S will also open more new stores and franchises overseas.

The new strategy was outlined as it reported half-year pre-tax profits of £348.8m, up from £306.7m last year.

Mr Bolland joined M&S earlier this year from supermarket chain Morrisons, taking over the chief executive's duties from Sir Stuart Rose.

'Distinctive values'

His mid-term strategy sits under the slogan "evolution not revolution".

In clothing, it said the sub-labels, which include Per Una and Autograph, would be given more "clarity" and "distinctive values".

It will also lose one of its sub-brands, Portfolio, and take it back under the main M&S label.

In food, the aim is to become a "specialist high-quality retailer".

Key changes will include cutting the range of non-M&S branded foodstuffs - only recently introduced to the stores - from 400 lines to 100.

These would mainly consist of products which the company itself could not replicate - such as Marmite.

Mr Bolland said he would be adding another 100 "distinctive international brands" which would be exclusive to M&S.

The company also said it would streamline its clothing brands and make the stores easier to shop in.

Longer term, the company plans to add to its 337 stores overseas in order to reduce its dependency on the UK economic cycle.

Mr Bolland told the BBC: "For the mid-term we believe we should be more international. We want to put more stores down in places like India, where we already are, but could be stronger."

He also said the company was thinking of opening more stores in China.

Retail analyst Neil Saunders said the first glimpse of Mr Bolland's vision looked "extremely sound".

"While there is no denying that the plans will take time to deliver, and will no doubt will cause some pain in terms of execution along the way, they move M&S in the right direction and will help create a stronger, more ambitious business that has greater relevance and resonance on the UK High Street and beyond," Mr Saunders said.

For the six months to 2 October, Mr Bolland said the company had increased sales in both clothing and food - albeit by just over 0.5% - to give the company an 11.2% share of the UK clothing market.

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