LONDON — The boss of clothing and home at Marks & Spencer is out amid supply chain challenges, floundering sales, shrinking shop floors and customers looking to competitors for their seasonal fashion and basics.
The company said in a terse statement Thursday that Jill McDonald was “leaving the business” nearly two years after she took over as managing director of Clothing and Home, a new role. M&S said that chief executive officer Steve Rowe would be taking over the leadership of the business directly in the near term.
“Jill was brought in to establish a strong platform for the transformation of the clothing and home business. She has achieved that. She leaves with my thanks and good wishes for the future. She has recruited a talented team, improved the quality and style of product and set a clear direction for the business to attract a younger family-age customer,” Rowe said.
He added that the business now needs to move on “at pace” to address long-standing supply chain issues around availability and flow of product. “Given the importance of this task to M&S, I will be overseeing this program directly.”
McDonald was an unusual choice from the get-go. She joined M&S after serving as ceo of Halfords, the British cycling and motoring retailer, with M&S shares falling on the news of her appointment.
The new role of managing director was meant to encompass design and sourcing, supply chain and logistics. McDonald reported directly to Rowe, and assumed his oversight of the clothing, home and beauty division, as well as the supply chain and logistics responsibilities of former chief financial officer Helen Weir.
McDonald’s appointment came a few months after Christos Angelides was named ceo of the British high-street retailer Reiss. Angelides, a veteran of Next and Abercrombie & Fitch, had been widely tipped to take on a major position within the M&S clothing, beauty and home division, but that never happened.
As reported in May, Marks & Spencer posted a drop in sales and profits in the 12 months to March 31 as the company began reducing its store footprint.
Revenue was down 3 percent to 10.38 billion pounds, with profits before tax and adjusting items falling 9.9 percent to 523.2 million pounds. Profits after tax climbed 28.2 percent to 37.3 million pounds due to a decrease in adjusting items including operating costs.
The clothing and home division was down 3.6 percent in the year, partly driven by the store closure program, with like-for-like sales down 1.6 percent. Discounted sales decreased as a result of the planned reduction in stock-into-sale.
U.K. clothing and home online revenue grew 9.8 percent, ahead of the clothing market, with strong growth in women’s wear, following improvements to the brand’s web site and delivery proposition.
At the time, M&S admitted that its clothing range remained “too wide,” with the volume of options “splintering our buying scale and making our shops challenging to navigate.”
The retailer also admitted — finally — that its clothing sizes were far too big for the average customer. “We have made progress in pruning options and introducing slimmer fits and more mid-sizes, and the customer response has been very strong,” it said.
M&S said it planned to reduce discounting further, slash the number of clothing options and range duplication and “focus on style and fashion and additional investment in value.” It also plans to re-launch the Per Una range, which had been a shop floor hit 20 years ago.