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UPDATE 1-M&S clothing boss could depart – Sky News

Sky News says Jill McDonald may be on verge of leaving

McDonald, previously at Halfords, joined MS in 2017

MS CEO highlighted continuing availability issues at AGM

MS shares down 30% over last year (Adds detail, CEO’s recent comments, updates shares)

LONDON, July 11 (Reuters) – The head of Marks Spencer’s clothing division may be on the verge of leaving the British retailer after less than two years in the job, Sky News reported.

Jill McDonald could step down as the company’s managing director for clothing, home and beauty as the division grapples with challenges to a recovery, Sky said. MS declined to comment on the report.

Shares in the retailer were down 0.7% at 206.7 pence at 0915 GMT. They are down 30% from a year ago.

McDonald joined MS in October 2017 to take on one of the biggest jobs in British fashion, having previously been the chief executive of bicycles to car parts company Halfords . Her appointment raised questions from some because she had no clothing retail experience.

MS set out on its latest turnaround plan shortly after retail veteran Archie Norman became chairman in 2017 to work alongside Steve Rowe, who became chief executive in 2016 and has been with the company three decades.

McDonald was a Rowe hire. On appointment he highlighted her “fantastic customer insight” and a wealth of operational, retail and leadership experience developed at Halfords and fast-food giant McDonald’s.

MS’s clothing and home like-for-like sales fell 1.6% in 2018-19 – a year which saw a third straight drop in group annual profit.

NOTABLE BY OMISSION

At the group’s annual meeting on Tuesday Rowe said MS had developed a strong team in clothing, name checking 2018 hires Jill Stanton, women’s and kid’s director, and Wes Taylor, the menswear director for bringing over 60 years clothing experience to the business.

However, McDonald’s name was notable by omission from Rowe’s speech.

The CEO said that while MS had improved its clothing ranges in terms of fit, style and value for money it still had significant issues with availability.

“I think here we’ve done much of the hard work on style and fit and it’s the process that we need to change,” Rowe said.

“Further work (is needed) on getting size ratios correct, making sure we reduce the number of lines we’re running so we can buy deeper, concentrating on the big lines that we’re famous for across the UK,” he said.

Industry publication Drapers reported in June that Topshop fashion director Maddy Evans was leaving the company to join MS in a senior buying role.

MS also declined to comment on that report. (Reporting by James Davey Editing by Deepa Babington/Keith Weir)

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