A controversial year for Stuart Rose, who just a few months after he was knighted, was almost brought back to his knees by the wrath of Marks & Spencer shareholders, who were angered over his decision to appoint himself executive chairman of the group as part of a wider board reshuffle.
While the outrage about his “super power” position has since died down, sales have nose-dived and Rose has come under fire for his strategy to chase volume through opening price points – though this was largely the tactic that won Rose record sales last year. Rose’s £1 billion store refurbishment programme has also been criticised for failing to deliver sufficient returns. Clothing market share is falling in some categories and like-for-like sales continue to slide which has resulted in a raft of pre-Christmas discount days – M&S’ first for four years.
However Rose was one of the first to forecast how serious the economic downturn was, predicting that it would last well into 2009 and it would be a brave investor to oust him and his intimate knowledge of M&S from his current position. His tasks next year will be to find and appoint a chief executive that meets with the City’s approval. It won’t be easy.