LONDON — Despite opposition from some shareholders — with 22 percent abstaining or voting against him — Marks and Spencer Group plc chairman Stuart Rose was elected executive chairman at the British retailer's annual meeting Wednesday.
Rose said he had endured a flurry of attacks, including a description of him as "the Robert Mugabe of retail."
Critics argued that his appointment to the position of executive chairman, which combines the duties of chairman and some of those of a chief executive officer, violated corporate governance rules and concentrated too much power in one role.
Defending his move, Rose said, "M&S is an institution that is bigger than any one individual, and that certainly includes me," adding that he believed the change "was the right thing to do."
The company said about 78 percent of shareholders voted in favor of Rose's appointment, which was announced in March, 4.9 percent voted against it and 17.2 percent abstained. There had been predictions in the British press that as many as 30 percent of the shareholders would either vote against Rose or abstain.
Many of the retailer's smaller investors congratulated Rose.
The vote came a week after Marks & Spencer's shares dropped 32.5 percent on the London Stock Exchange when the retailer said sales rose 1.3 percent in the first quarter, but like-for-like sales fell sharply across all key categories. Rose blamed falling consumer confidence and a weak economic climate for the slide.
Rose said he doesn't plan to take the retailer's luxury-oriented food offering in a discounted direction and would continue to expand the largest British clothing retailer. "M&S is not and never will be a one-stop shop. We are upping the game in terms of innovation."
Addressing shareholders' complaints about the sharp fall in M&S' share price in the last year, Rose said, "We are equally as unhappy. It reflects the market's confidence in this particular sector. There's currently very little interest in the investment market in consumer-facing stock like retailers."
Rose acknowledged the slump in like-for-like sales in the first quarter. "Consumers are saying that their purses are pressed, the cost of living is going up faster, they are feeling the squeeze and it will take longer to feed through," he said. "Marks & Spencer is a bit like the smoke detector in your kitchen," he added, explaining the retailer was vulnerable to shifts in consumer spending as it holds the largest clothing market share in the U.K. and serves 20 million customers.
However, company deputy chairman David Michels said during the meeting at Royal Festival Hall that in a difficult economy, "continuity is more important. We needed Stuart to run this company, he has a job to finish and he can do it better than anyone else."
Shareholders also passed resolutions to elect Kate Bostock, executive director of clothing, to the board, and to reelect Stephen Sharp, executive director of marketing to the board.
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty