If this week’s Marks & Spencer investor day was intended to allow the internal candidates for the chief executive’s job to show their mettle, it was a gamble that backfired spectacularly.

If this week’s Marks & Spencer investor day was intended to allow the internal candidates for the chief executive’s job to show their mettle, it was a gamble that backfired spectacularly.

The retailer was the biggest faller on the FTSE on Tuesday, dropping 4% as the presentations, fed live by webcast, failed to inspire the City.

The reaction to the event will be seen as a reflection on the capabilities of Ian Dyson, John Dixon and Kate Bostock. You have to feel some sympathy for all three - all very capable retailers thrown into an unfair X-Factor-style audition for the top job where the pressure of what in effect was a public job interview was bound to get to them.

They didn’t perform badly in the circumstances, but none showed the gravitas or inspiration that will be needed from the man or woman who’s going to succeed Rose. But then how could they? None has run a business like M&S and should any of them get the job, it could prove a poisoned chalice. They could be fed to the lions by the City.

As ever with M&S, the furore about the personalities overshadowed the strategic plans unveiled on Tuesday, which showed that the retailer’s 2020 project, led by Dyson, is beginning to get to grips with some of the legacy issues that hold it back, notably around the supply chain.

It was a solid start but there needs to be more bold thinking about the future, starting with a difficult but essential decision to prune some of its weaker in-town stores and adapting to the changes in how people shop by building a significant out-of-town estate.

The initiatives ultimately turned out to be a sideshow. And if Tuesday was meant to bring some clarity to the outlook for M&S, it failed.

Lacking good sports

John Clare must have seen a lot in his time at Dixons, but even that couldn’t have prepared him for the mess that he’s faced with since becoming senior independent director at JJB Sports.

There’s no excusing the spreading of malicious rumours that were deliberately timed to derail its £100m rights issue. But they were only able to gain traction because of the murky world in which JJB operates - not helped by chairman Sir David Jones taking a loan from bitter rival Mike Ashley.

If its retailers are to retain any credibility, the sportswear sector needs to clean up its act urgently.