Marks & Spencer is on the verge of appointing a headhunter to begin its search for a new chief executive to replace Sir Stuart Rose next year.

Executive search firm JCA’s Jan Hall, a former Marks & Spencer headhunter, is expected to be among the leading candidates to conduct the search, according to the Financial Times.

The retailer has had a number of calls from other headhunters wanting to act for M&S as it seeks to address its succession issues.

M&S hopes to appoint a new chief executive by next summer, meaning the search must begin this autumn. It is considering international and external candidates to success Rose.

Rose will to step down from the role by July 2011.

Contenders for the chief executive position include M&S’s director of food John Dixon, its finance director Ian Dyson, Asda’s Andy Bond and Sainsbury’sJustin King.

It is also thought M&S may be looking at a broader range of retail bosses, including HMV’s Simon Fox, who was last month in the running for the role of chief executive of broadcaster ITV, before he ruled himself out.