Marks & Spencer’s fashion boss Jill McDonald is under mounting pressure to stabilise the firm’s decline in clothing sales after a difficult start to the winter season.
M&S, which recently launched a collection modelled by TV star Holly Willoughby, is this week expected to reveal falling profits for the half year to the end of September.
Sources said cost-cutting targets had led to clothes stocks being cut back too severely, hampering sales of ranges that had proved popular.
Star turn: TV celebrity Holly Willoughby is a Marks & Spencer brand ambassador
Unseasonably warm weather had also upset expectations.
Company insiders have insisted McDonald, who joined a year ago from Halfords, has full support from the board.
But one City source said: ‘Jill’s background isn’t in clothing and the question is whether the performance will improve quickly enough under the intense scrutiny of company chairman Archie Norman.’
He has quickly brought in his own management team since his arrival in September 2017 with more than half of directors already replaced.
He warned in the summer that the company is on a ‘burning platform’, with too many high street stores.
Norman is expected to say this week that M&S is making progress and that key successes include the signing of the popular Willoughby.
M&S’s house stockbroker Clive Black, at Shore Capital, has forecast a 3 per cent profit slide in the first half to £212 million.
Most other analysts expect the performance to be worse.