Dixon’s Exit From Marks & Spencer Is Another Blow to Bolland

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M&S Clothing Woes

Marks & Spencer Group Plc’s clothing head John Dixon is leaving the U.K. retailer to take a more senior role elsewhere, dealing a new blow to Chief Executive Officer Marc Bolland.

“I now have the opportunity to become a chief executive and have therefore resigned from this great company,” Dixon, 47, said in a statement issued by London-based Marks & Spencer late Thursday. The statement didn’t say where he will work next. Dixon will step down from the board immediately and leave on a date to be determined. The shares fell in London trading.

Steve Rowe, who heads the food division, will take over Dixon’s role as head of the general-merchandise unit, which mostly comprises apparel. Rowe’s position in the food unit is being taken by divisional trading director Andy Adcock on an interim basis.

Since being appointed head of M&S’s general-merchandise division three years ago, Dixon has been unable to stem a near continuous decline in sales as it’s lost touch with younger shoppers who prefer U.K. competitors such as Next Plc and Primark. The poor performance has heaped pressure on CEO Bolland, with 6 percent of shareholders opposing his re-election at this month’s annual general meeting.

Overseeing apparel is a “Herculean task” and Dixon isn’t to blame for its weak performance, Jonathan Pritchard, an analyst at Peel Hunt, said in a note to clients. The departure is a “major blow to M&S,” he said, as “we fear another period of rebuild and thus underperformance.”

Fading Popularity

Last year, in which sales at M&S’s general-merchandise unit fell 2.5 percent, Dixon received a bonus of 217,000 pounds ($338,715), the lowest amount paid to any of the company’s executive directors. Dixon began his M&S career on the shop floor almost 30 years ago, and more recently had been working alongside high-profile style director Belinda Earl in an effort to revive the chain’s fading popularity.

The shares fell as much as 1.5 percent and were down 1.4 percent to 539 pence at 9:14 a.m.

Rowe is a 26-year company veteran who took over from Dixon as head of the food unit in 2012.

“Steve has outstanding experience working across the business and is well placed to take the general-merchandise business forward,” Bolland said in the statement.

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