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Marks and Spencer has suffered a further senior departure, with the defection of Richard Price, head of menswear, to Sir Philip Green’s BHS.
Mr Price will become managing director of the BHS department store chain.
Confirming the departure M&S said: “Richard is a talented individual, and he has done a great job in menswear. His new role as managing director presents a unique and challenging opportunity to take on a wider remit, including all trading departments, as well as stores, e-commerce and property. We understand why Richard would want to pursue this, and he leaves with our thanks and very best wishes for the future.”
Mr Price’s departure is a particular blow to Marc Bolland, chief executive of M&S, as menswear has been one of the best-performing categories in its clothing and home business.
According to the figures obtained by the Financial Times, menswear sales from stores open at least a year fell 7 per cent in the first seven weeks of the first quarter. Womenswear sales were down 19 per cent.
The poor trading in womenswear has continued, according to several people familiar with the situation, with heavy discounting by M&S over recent weeks raising eyebrows in the retail sector.
Other management departures this year include Andrew Skinner, a senior director in M&S’s clothing business, who left the business after 38 years.
In February, Susan Aubrey-Cound, who was director of new channels, and another long-serving senior manager, left the retailer. Her departure followed that of Alison Jones, one of the brand directors recruited by Mr Bolland last year.
The poor trading in womenswear will also put pressure on Kate Bostock, head of clothing and homewares at M&S, who has held talks with Asos about taking a senior role at the online retailer.
Mr Price, who has spent the past four years at M&S after a 15-year career with Next, was seen by some M&S watchers as a potential successor to Ms Bostock if she were to leave the high street bellwether.
M&S will report its first-quarter trading on July 10, when it also holds is annual meeting.
Shares in M&S, which have underperformed the retail sector in the last six months, fell more than 3 per cent on Friday to 326p.