M&S boss Marc Bolland does not appear to be considering exiting soon, but the departure of John Dixon has made succession a talking point.

Steve Rowe, executive director, general merchandise

Company veteran Rowe is M&S through and through. He followed his father Joe, who also rose to become a director, into the business and brings wide-ranging experience.

He was retail director before moving to head the food division, where he won praise for sustaining momentum amid grocery market turmoil, and following Dixon’s departure has moved to take responsibility for the key general merchandise division.

Well liked and his status enhanced, Rowe is a strong contender to become chief executive.

Some believe that he edged ahead of Dixon among the internal candidates, and that is what prompted the latter’s departure.

However, Rowe’s long association with M&S might be an Achilles heel if the board chooses to bring in an outsider with different perspectives.

Laura Wade-Gery, executive director, multichannel

The appointment of the formidable Wade-Gery from Tesco was seen as a coup for M&S, bringing valuable dotcom experience that had previously been lacking. 

Wade-Gery oversaw the relaunch of M&S’s online operations last year but her reputation was tarnished a little after the transition hit performance.

Although M&S said there was always going to be some turbulence as a result of such a big change, others questioned whether there should have been disruption to the extent there was.

A year ago she was handed responsibility for stores, seen now as one of the various channels through which M&S sells rather than the primary one. The appointment was seen as strengthening her credentials to succeed Bolland.

Although engaging company, some see Wade-Gery as rather aloof, which may count against her in the high-profile role of leading M&S.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director, marketing and international

The dapper Frenchman is perhaps the dark horse in the succession race but brings some strong credentials.

While M&S’s overseas operations have been affected by financial and economic instability in markets such as Greece and the Ukraine, the long-term ambition is to be an international, multichannel business rather than UK-centric to the degree that it is today.

Bousquet-Chavanne has serious international credentials, having worked in Paris and New York in senior roles for giants such as Estée Lauder. 

Engaging and charismatic, he has the people skills necessary to lead and represent the business.

Helen Weir, chief finance officer

Weir only joined M&S as chief financial officer in April this year but she is already being spoken of as potentially being M&S’s first woman chief executive.

She has a strong retail pedigree, having held senior roles at B&Q-owner Kingfisher and John Lewis Partnership.

She may be seen as bringing the combined benefits of external experience and industry experience.

The shortness of her tenure at M&S might prove a problem if a successor to Bolland was being sought in the short term, but with a bit of time under her belt at the business she could be a strong contender.