Marks & Spencer has announced today that Jill McDonald is leaving the business nearly two years after taking over as managing director of clothing and home.
M&S CEO Steve Rowe will be taking over the leadership of the business directly in the short term, stating that supply chain issues in the category need to be addressed quickly.
Ms McDonald joined Marks & Spencer in autumn 2017 as the retailer began a huge transformation plan, which has seen it shut stores and revamp its management. Her background included senior roles at Halfords and McDonalds and some suggested she wasn’t the obvious choice for the role. However, in its latest results for the year ended March 2019, M&S said it had spent the past two years building “a substantially new leadership team, bringing fresh perspective, energy and challenge to a business held back by deeply entrenched cultural norms”.
Announcing Ms McDonald’s departure, Mr Rowe said: “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.
“The business now needs to move on at pace to address long-standing issues in our clothing and home supply chain around availability and flow of product. Given the importance of this task to M&S, I will be overseeing this programme directly.”
In its latest full-year results, M&S revealed revenue was down 3.6% in its UK clothing & home business, impacted by store closures, with like-for-like revenue down 1.6%. Gross margin was up 20bps, driven by 14% lower stock into sale.
It described “encouraging signs of progress in Q3”, particularly online, but this was constrained by weak availability in Q4, as the retailer sold out of a number of fast-selling lines.
As much as 22% of M&S’ home and clothing revenue in the UK is now online, compared with 19% last year. Investment in updating the basics of its website has also helped to deliver growth in the category of 9.8% in FY 18/19. During Q3, when we had strong seasonal demand, growth was well into double digits.
Commenting on the results when they were published in May, Mr Rowe said: “M&S is changing faster than at any time in my career - substantial changes across the business to our processes, ranges and operations and this has constrained this year’s performance, particularly in clothing & home. However, we remain on track with our transformation and are now well on the road to making M&S special again.”