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Sunday, 28 January, 2001, 12:29 GMT
M&S chief blames Greenbury for slump
M&S is pinning its hopes on its spring collection
M&S is pinning its hopes on its spring collection
The chairman of Marks & Spencer, Luc Vandevelde, has put the blame for the company's decline on his predecessor Sir Richard Greenbury.

Mr Vandevelde, the Belgian headhunted a year ago with the brief to halt the slide at M&S, also told the Sunday Telegraph that he was not aware of how deep the company's troubles were when he took the job.

(The blame) clearly lies with the people who were running this company when it was going well and who did not anticipate the changes in the marketplace and in consumer behaviour when they had the money, the resources and the talent to do something about it

Luc Vandevelde

His interview came at the end of a week in which M&S posted another disastrous set of sales figures - with its core clothes sales falling about 10% over the Christmas period.

Mr Vandevelde, who earlier this week said the clothes on sale in the winter range were "simply not good enough", maintained that the Spring collection was "lively" and would bring a bit more colour to its stores.

Warehouse recruit

The new look is set to be developed in the future under the direction of Yasmin Yusuf, who is currently at the helm of High Street women's fashion chain Warehouse.

Ms Yusuf, 41, is expected to become creative director for M&S, with a brief covering design, merchandising and store layout across the chain..

If you go to the countryside you will find an average dress code which is not necessarily very appealing. But then you walk around in London and certain other areas and you find exactly the opposite

Luc Vandevelde

According to reports in a range of Sunday newspapers, M&S is set to announce the appointment in the next few days.

But as she prepares to take on the job, Mr Vandevelde has little doubt who should shoulder the blame for the drastic decline in profits and sales at the chain.

He told the Sunday Telegraph the blame "clearly lies with the people who were running this company when it was going well and who did not anticipate the changes in the marketplace and in consumer behaviour when they had the money, the resources and the talent to do something about it.

"By definition this is Sir Richard Greenbury and whoever was the core management team."

Britons: 'extreme tastes'

Mr Vandevelde also told the newspaper about some of the differences he had noticed between British and French shoppers.

"British shoppers are very demanding," he told the newspaper.

The average French person would be more knowledgeable about the latest fashion trends

Luc Vandevelde

"You will find the best dressed people and you will find some people who have probably not opened Vogue magazine in their life, or don't even know the existence of it," the Sunday Telegraph quotes Mr Vandevelde as saying.

"The average French person would be more knowledgeable about the latest fashion trends. One of the things about this country is the extremes.

"If you go to the countryside you will find an average dress code which is not necessarily very appealing.

"But then you walk around in London and certain other areas and you find exactly the opposite."

The M&S chief has given himself until the end of this year to begin the turnaround.

He says the trick is to get clothes ranges targeted to the specific customer base at individual stores, rather than having a uniform range across the UK.

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See also:

23 Jan 01 | Business
Fresh sales slump at M&S
23 Jan 01 | Business
Streaker ad fails to halt slide
24 Jan 01 | Business
Where now for M&S?
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