Marks & Spencer could be putting its woes behind it despite an expected slump in sales, a meeting in Birmingham is set to hear today.
Analysts believe first quarter sales will be down across the retailer's core markets.
They reckon the company will see a drop of between four and eight per cent, a fairly broad range reflecting the difficulty of predicting clothing sales for a season of sharp weather swings and sagging consumer confidence.
This seventh consecutive quarter of falling sales will represent a continuation of a protracted period of underperformance from the country's top clothing seller that saw total UK like-for-like turnover fall 5.1 per cent last year.
M&S would not comment ahead of the AGM which is due to take place at the International Convention Centre.
But part of its plans in the region include the revamp of its store in the High Street, Birmingham and the opening of a new store at the Fort shopping centre in September.
The city centre plan is one of 20 locations being remodelled, and having new cafe, display equipment and customer service desks and walkways.
While the generally depressed state of the UK consumer is partly to blame for the downturn in its fortunes, M&S has been losing market share to rivals across the board.
The entry of traditional grocery players like Tesco and Asda into the clothing market has eaten away at the bottom end of the market, while the tarnished M&S image and a series of ill-advised collections has seen erosion of the company's traditional mid-market dominance.
But some of chief executive
Stuart Rose's strategies to attract new customer groups, increase sales to the vast base of loyal M&S customers and improve profitability may mean that he will not be warning on profits for the time being at least.
In his annual report he remained bullish about the future, although he added there was no fixes.
He said: "We are focusing on three key areas: product, service and store environment.
"While the retail climate remains tough, we believe we are taking the right steps to return Marks & Spencer to growth and health for the longer term.
"Marks & Spencer is a great brand, with a strong heritage and outstanding values. We are committed to driving the business forward and delivering the plan outlined last year. We are making steady underlying progress."
CSFB analyst Tony Shiret said in a research note, said: "We do not expect profit forecasts to move down, largely reflecting improved clothing buying terms imposed on the supply base and probably greater-than-expected cost containment than previously disclosed."
Mr Shiret expected likefor-like general merchandise sales to be down about five per cent, with food sales either flat or slightly positive following heavy investment in advertising and an overall upturn in M&S's strong suit of fresh food sales.
This would mean total same- store sales falling around two per cent, a rather more positive view than broker Goldman Sachs, which puts the fall at 3.8 per cent.
But Goldman Sachs also expects M&S to stop losing market share in men's and women's clothing - although a great deal hangs on the current management's first "own" clothing collections.
With food sales under intense pressure amid a fierce price war between the supermarkets, the autumn collection will be the first to be commissioned entirely under Mr Rose's stewardship.
Many believe that this will be the first test of whether he really knows how to run a fashion business.