Marks & Spencer’s fashion turnaround has suffered another blow as senior womenswear executive Gillian Ridley Whittle exits the retailer.

Development and buying director Ridley Whittle is to join Australian retail group Target. She is the third senior member of the M&S womenswear team to exit this year following the departure earlier this year of lingerie and beauty director Janie Schaffer, dubbed the ‘Knicker Queen’, after just three months in the role. Head of merchandising Cathy Haydon also left M&S in September.

Ridley Whittle had been running the lingerie category, in which M&S is market leader, since Schaffer’s exit in April. She recently took up a strategic role in womenswear.

M&S chief executive Marc Bolland is attempting to revive clothing sales, which have been in decline for eight consecutive quarters, and has launched a blockbuster advertising campaign, featuring Dame Helen Mirren,  singer Ellie Goulding and artist Tracey Emin.