Chief executive, Marks & Spencer

Marc Bolland

It has been a mixed year for the Marks & Spencer boss, marked by the implementation of his strategy to take the bellwether business into a new phase but also dogged by some difficulties.

Last year Marc Bolland began his overhaul of M&S’s product and stores, and the signs are ­promising so far. However, profits at M&S fell last year for the first time in three years, and growth ­ambitions have been scaled back.

Similarly, his plans to internationalise M&S were advanced by its return to France using a bricks-and-clicks strategy. A high-profile store on the Champs-Élysées in Paris made a splash as shoppers queued to get in on opening day, and more shops, including Simply Food stores, are planned.

However, Bolland has also had problems to contend with, most notably some senior management departures. Among those to have left are veterans including Susan Aubrey-Cound and Andrew Skinner as well as relative newcomers such as Alison Jones.

There has been persistent speculation that Kate Bostock, the experienced general merchandise boss, has been close to leaving. However, speaking at the Cloud Retail Week Conference in March, Bolland insisted the level of management churn at M&S was not a cause for concern.

There was also embarrassment in April when M&S admitted it had missed sales because of insufficient availability of some of its most popular lines, leading to accusations that basic retail disciplines were not in place.

Despite the niggles, however, the retailer entered the summer in a confident mood with a new advertising campaign and its eye-catching ‘shwopping’ initiative. The eco campaign is designed to take its Plan A sustainability programme forward and make it more engaging for consumers.