Marks and Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland is to step down in April, the company said as it announced its Christmas results. Bolland will be succeeded by Steve Rowe, executive director of general merchandise. Third-quarter sales of general merchandise were down by 5.8 per cent for the thirteen weeks to December 26. But M&S said it had an ‘excellent quarter’ for food, with record sales in the Christmas week. Investors reacted positively, with Marks and Spencer shares rising more than 1 per cent in morning trading. There was no pressure on Bolland to leave from shareholders or the board, Marks and Spencer chairman Robert Swannell said on a conference call with reporters. Bolland is retiring after six years in the role. Rowe will receive a salary of £810,000 from April 2, 2016 as part of his chief executive remuneration package, the firm said. He has been employed by the firm for more than 25 years, and has had roles including director of retail and e-commerce and positions in general merchandise. Marks and Spencer’s third quarter general merchandise sales, which include clothing, were ‘disappointing’, the firm said. The 5.8 per cent drop in sales was put down to ‘unseasonal conditions and availability’. Retailers such as Next also blamed unseasonably warm weather in December for disappointing sales. However, food sales for Marks and Spencer were up 0.4 per cent in the third quarter, and the retailer said it had record sales in the Christmas week, up 17 per cent. Online sales rose more than 20 per cent in the quarter, it added. Marks and Spencer has had recurrent problems in general merchandise for a number of years. For example, in the six months to 26 September 2015, sales fell 1.2 per cent. Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said that the change at the top could lead to some uncertainty.