(In paragraph 11, corrects to clarify that Nomura is not M&S's
joint house broker)
By James Davey
LONDON, March 20 Marks & Spencer,
Britain's biggest clothing retailer, lost market share over the
last three months, industry data showed on Thursday, reversing a
small gain late last year that was heralded by its chief
executive as a sign his recovery plan was working.
Data from research group Kantar Worldpanel, seen by Reuters,
showed M&S's share of the UK fashion market declined 0.2 percent
in the 24 weeks to Feb. 16 and was down 0.4 percent in the
latter 12 weeks of the period.
The figures showed the retailer's share of the key
womenswear market contracted 0.2 percent over the 24 weeks and
0.5 percent over the latter 12 weeks.
The loss of share is likely to up the pressure on CEO Marc
Bolland, who has presided over 10 straight quarters of declining
underlying sales in M&S's general merchandise division, which
Bolland is nearing the end of a three-year, 2.3 billion
pound ($3.8 billion) plan to address decades of
In January he said the womenswear business was showing
"early signs of improvement" under the management of a new team
and a re-focus on quality and style.
He highlighted womenswear market share growth of 0.1 percent
over the 12 weeks to Nov. 24 - the first growth in three years -
and said the firm's spring/summer collection had been well
received by the fashion press.
M&S declined to comment on the latest market share data.
Shares in the firm were down 1.2 percent at 467 pence at
1254 GMT, valuing the business at 7.64 billion pounds.
The stock is down 7 percent over the last six months, though
up 18.7 percent over the last year.
Earlier this week brokerage Nomura reduced its 2013-14 and
2014-15 pretax profit forecasts on concerns of continued weak
trading at the retailer, which also sells upmarket food.
Its forecast for 2013-14 was cut to 614 million pounds from
632 million pounds - a forecast below sector analysts' consensus
figure of 628 million pounds published on M&S's corporate
Nomura cut its forecast for 2014-15 to 709 million pounds
from 724 million pounds.
The brokerage reduced its forecast for M&S's fourth-quarter
like-for-like sales in general merchandise to down 1.5 percent
from up 1.3 percent previously. It also cut its forecast for
food like-for-like sales in its fourth quarter to flat from up
0.3 percent previously.
Easter - which normally boosts trade - falls later this
year, while M&S's business will not have been helped by
widespread flooding in Britain.
M&S is scheduled to update on fourth quarter, to end-March,
trading on April 10 and publish 2013-14 results on May 20.
Separately on Thursday Next, Britain's No. 2
clothing retailer, posted a 12 percent rise in 2013-14 pretax
profit to 695.2 million pounds - a figure that would top M&S's
earnings for the first time, based on analysts' forecasts.
($1 = 0.6014 British Pounds)
(Editing by David Holmes and Pravin Char)