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M&S CEO Says New Clothing Range a ‘Step in the Right Direction’

May 14 (Bloomberg) -- Marks & Spencer Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Marc Bolland said its new autumn-winter fashion collection is a “step in the right direction” toward reigniting interest in the struggling fashion brand after seven quarters of sales declines.

“I"m very confident that the direction in style and quality is absolutely the right direction” for the U.K.’s largest clothing retailer, Bolland said at the introduction of its new fashion ranges in London tonight.

Bolland is seeking to revive interest in the 129-year-old brand by “significant upgrades” to its quality like a 9 percent increase in the weight of cashmere jumpers, renaming and editing down its core basic ranges called “M&S Collection,” and more trend-led design. The new ranges will be in stores and online from late July.

The retailer recruited former Debenhams Plc CEO Belinda Earl as style director last year to make its offerings more fashionable and recently announced it had hired Inditex SA’s Queralt Ferrer and Next Plc’s Jo Jenkins after a number of high-profile exits.

Earl said tonight she planned to persuade existing customers, particularly in lingerie and food, as well as new, younger customers, to try the company’s clothing ranges. Its Limited Collection for women 25 to 35 years old will be renamed Limited Edition and will offer seasonal items.

Bolland, who has run the retailer for three years, has conceded in the past the retailer’s collections are “not yet satisfactory.” The CEO has asked investors to be patient until the autumn-winter collection reaches the stores, bringing with it products influenced by the new general-merchandise management team, overseen by John Dixon since October.

With 75 percent of sales coming from customers aged 45 and over, the CEO said tonight Marks & Spencer shoppers “don’t want to look old,” adding “this is a step in the right direction and this is a step-by-step approach.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Shannon in London at sshannon4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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