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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 16:19 GMT
M&S bids for image revamp

Models wearing clothes from M&S Spring/Summer collection M&S says the lines were inspired by top designers

Struggling retailer Marks & Spencer hopes its sales will be boosted by the launch of a spring and summer womenswear collection aimed at younger shoppers.

The company will also be hoping the designs appeal to new chairman Luc Vandevelde, who was appointed this week to turn the troubled retailer around.

The high street chain, which has suffered disastrous sales over the last year, has opted for lilac, fuchsia pink and apple green as the main colours in its new feminine-looking range.

Shelagh Brown, head of womenswear design, said despite the bold collection the chain had not forgotten its more conservative, core customers.

"These are the key items we are showing today but we have also got plenty of basics which we have worked hard on which will appeal to our classic customer as well," she said.

Poor performance

The UK's largest clothing retailer has seen its profits and share price slide in the past two years.

Shoppers have bought their clothes elsewhere, despite the company employing well-known designers to revive its brand.

Model Lilac is one of the collection's main colours
Earlier this month, Marks & Spencer said that Christmas sales slumped 5.3% in the six weeks to 8 January.

Last year M&S saw its profits slump from 1.16bn to 545m.

The troubles are bad news for the thousands of workers at Marks & Spencer's suppliers. Many of them have already lost their jobs as the company has switched to overseas manufacturers.

Last year there were an estimated 4,500 job losses at its traditional clothing suppliers.

New man at the top

Marks & Spencer has just appointed Belgian retail boss Luc Vandevelde as its new executive chairman in the hope that he will be able to to revive the chain's flagging fortunes.

The appointment of a new chairman should help the company bolster its defences against any takeover bids that are being prepared.

Many pundits say a bid is imminent. However, Mr Vandevelde said in an interview with the BBC that "there are no bids on the table at this time."

Mr Vandevelde said that the fundamentals of Marks & Spencer, such as its brand loyalty and product offering, were strong.

"My task is to create shareholder value. That is my one and only objective," Mr Vandevelde said.

Marks & Spencer has been without a full-time chairman since Sir Richard Greenbury left last year.

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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  Business
M&S: A brand new challenge
12 Jan 00 |  Business
M&S sales plummet
11 Jan 00 |  Business
M&S sued by supplier
24 Jan 00 |  Business
M&S goes for Belgian boss

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