Marks and Spencer Group plc today announces that Marc Bolland has informed the board that, after six years in the role, he wishes to retire as CEO in 2016. Marc will be succeeded as CEO by Steve Rowe, executive director of general merchandise. Marc will remain CEO and on the board until the end of the current financial year on 2nd April 2016, when he will hand over to Steve. He will then remain available to Steve and the board to assist in the transition until 30th June.

Steve has been with Marks and Spencer Group for over 25 years, and been a board member since 2012. Before joining the board, he worked in a range of senior positions across the business including director of retail and e-commerce, and various positions in general merchandise. In 2012 he was appointed by Marc Bolland to the executive team as executive director, food, and was appointed to the board.

In July 2015, Steve was appointed executive director, general merchandise, with a mandate to improve the overall performance of that business, building on the improved design and sourcing capabilities.

Robert Swannell, Marks and Spencer Group chairman, says: “Over the last six years Marc Bolland has led Marks & Spencer through a period of necessary change. Over this time, the company has made significant investment in enhanced infrastructure and capabilities.

“It is now positioned for a digital age, with its own online platform and dedicated ecommerce distribution centre, improved design and sourcing capabilities in general merchandise and an industry-leading track record of growth and innovation in the food business. Marc has put Plan A at the heart of the business and leaves a strong sustainability legacy.

“I am delighted that, after the most rigorous succession planning, Marc will be succeeded by Steve Rowe. Steve has a deep knowledge of Marks & Spencer and a proven track record of delivering results in key parts of the business. The nomination committee was unanimous in supporting Steve’s appointment in the light of his considerable knowledge of the business and its people, his appetite to continue the process of change – particularly in general merchandise – his perceptive and effective problem solving, his values and his observed leadership.“

Marc Bolland comments: “It has been a huge honour to lead one of Britain’s most iconic companies. I am delighted to hand over to Steve Rowe as my successor. I have worked closely with Steve for six years and I am convinced that he will be a great leader for Marks & Spencer."

Steve Rowe adds: “It is a great privilege to be appointed CEO of Marks & Spencer and to have the opportunity to lead this unique company and all its people forward.”

The announcement comes as the retailer reports an "excellent" Q3 for food, a sinficant increase in general merchandise gross margin, yet "disappointing" general merchandise sales (-5.0%, like-for-like -5.8%) due to "unseasonal conditions and availability". M&S.com sales rose by 20.9%, driven by strong customer traffic. Marc comments: "We continued to prioritise gross margin, and held back from the heavy discounting seen across the market in the run-up to Christmas."