Marc Bolland

Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland will step down from the role in April, the retailer has said.

The announcement comes as M&S reported a 5.8% fall in general merchandise sales, where its clothing sits, in the 13 weeks to 26 December. However, weather can be blamed for at least a portion of that decline. Earlier this week, Next reported a disappointing Christmas period as a result of shoppers not purchasing winter clothing like coats and jumpers due to the warmer weather.

Executive director of general merchandise Steve Rowe will take over the role of chief executive when Mr Bolland departs.

Bolland has been in the top job for six years and has overseen a sizable decline in sales of its clothing, while M&S food products continue to go from strength-to-strength. With sales up 0.4% during the period, and up 17% in the week leading up to Christmas, Marks & Spencer described it as "excellent quarter" for its food department.

Marks and Spencer chairman Robert Swannell stressed that there was no pressure on Mr Bolland to leave from the board. But he did say that his succession has been planned "for years".