Marks & Spencer has announced a major overhaul of its clothing operations
Marks & Spencer has announced a major overhaul of its clothing operations – which includes getting rid of a style director brought in to revitalise its floundering fashion ranges.
Belinda Earl is standing down as the High Street stalwart steps up the fight to revive its fortunes.
Womenswear and lingerie chief Queralt Ferrer is also leaving, along with menswear boss Michael Kerr, who has been at M&S for 35 years, having started his career on the shop floor.
The shake-up under chairman Archie Norman and chief executive Steve Rowe continues their efforts to tackle the retailer’s sluggish performance.
Less than a week ago, M&S announced an overhaul of its food arm, which will see Stuart Machin, a protege of Norman’s, take over as managing director.
That followed the recruitment of former McDonald’s and Halfords executive Jill McDonald as managing director of clothing and homeware last year.
Analysts said a further shake-up of the management team was inevitable following a disappointing Christmas that saw clothing sales fall again.
Russ Mould, investment director at broker AJ Bell, said: ‘Archie Norman, Steve Rowe and Jill McDonald are not in a position to leave things as they are, and they were never likely to do so.’
Marks & Spencer, which was founded in 1884, has fallen out of favour with shoppers in recent years as it struggles to keep up with changing fashion tastes.
Dwindling sales has seen it tumble toward the lower rungs of the FTSE 100. Last year it was leapfrogged in market value by online-only retailer Asos.
Unveiling plans to merge its womenswear and kidswear divisions, M&S yesterday said it wanted to ‘attract more families’ to its stores.
Clothing veteran Jill Stanton, who started out as a buyer for M&S in the 1980s before working in senior positions for Next, Nike and Old Navy, will take over as director of womenswear and kidswear in July.
M&S also named Wes Taylor, who has spent much of his career at Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia, where he was managing director at Burton for 11 years, as its new menswear director. He will start in May.
McDonald said last night: ‘We must become more relevant to more people, offering the right products at the right prices to appeal to our core customers and attract new ones.
‘Jill and Wes are highly impressive retailers with strong track records of success at other high-profile brands, and will bring this invaluable experience to M&S.
‘We now have the right leadership team in place to get on and deliver change.’
M&S said Earl, a former boss of Debenhams and Jaeger who joined M&S in 2012, is ‘stepping away’ from her commercial role as style director.
The married mother of two, who was made an OBE in 2017 for services to retail, will, however, stay on as an adviser and sit on the board of M&S Archive – essentially a museum of the retailer’s old clothing, reports and photographs.
Heading out the door is Ferrer, a former executive at Zara-owner Inditex, after two-and-a- half years at M&S. She is returning to Amsterdam to be with her family.
M&S said last night that Kerr ‘has decided to leave after 35 years to pursue other career opportunities’.
Shares in the retailer yesterday dropped 0.8 per cent, or 2.1p, to 266.3p.