The Marks & Spencer director in charge of the retailer’s clothing and homewares business is understood to have quit after nearly 30 years with the business.
John Dixon was until recently tipped as a top contender to replace the group chief executive, Marc Bolland. Now his departure could be formally announced as early as tomorrow.
M&S revealed last week at its annual general meeting that its clothing and homeware sales had slipped again in the last three months.
In April, Dixon’s division unveiled its first rise in clothing sales for four years. Bolland, said sales of womenswear, menswear, childrenswear and home furnishings had all increased as shoppers perceived an improvement in style and quality at the chain.
But just a few weeks later, as Bolland unveiled the chain’s annual profits, he described the poor performance of Dixon’s non-food business during the previous 12 months as “not good enough”.
And at the AGM Bolland had to unveil a new decline in sales, bringing what some analysts had believed was a long-awaited reversal in the retailer’s fashion fortunes to an abrupt halt. And the decline could have been far worse but for buoyant sales online. Nick Bubb, a retail analyst, estimated that had it not been for the online boost, the underlying sales decline would have been up to 5%.
The high street retailer declined to comment on Dixon’s situation and the senior executive himself could not be contacted, but well-placed sources confirmed the 46-year-old was set to leave the high street store.
Some speculated that Dixon had become frustrated with the company and that a key internal rival – the head of food, Steve Rowe – had overtaken him as a more likely future successor to Bolland.
The new finance director, Helen Weir, and the store’s online boss, Laura Wade-Gery, are also said to be keen to take the top job. Dixon, who is estimated by Bloomberg to be earning £1m a year, has run the clothing and homewares business since 2012, when Kate Bostock left the post after a slump in sales. He had previously achieved a turnaround in the food business.
Dixon, whose father also worked for M&S, started on the bottom rung of the retailer’s business, moving on to become a food buyer.
By 2004 he had caught the eye of the then chief executive, Stuart Rose, and was promoted to become his executive assistant. Dixon joined the board in September 2009 as head of food.
There has been recent speculation that Bolland is preparing to move on. He was previously chief executive of Morrisons and before that one of the most senior executives at Heineken.
At the recent shareholders’ meeting he faced a verbal onslaught from shareholders including Muriel Conway, who spent 25 years designing womenswear for M&S until the late 1990s. She said: “I could weep at what I see in stores today. Where’s the originality, flair, newness and good taste? The necklines are too low and the polos too high.”
This article was written by Terry Macalister, for theguardian.com on Thursday 16th July 2015 19.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010