Outlook Next's relative success has got to be making life awkward for Marc Bolland. He was supposed to be the saviour of Marks & Spencer – it seems to need one at least every five years – and so far his results are mixed at best.
At times, Marks & Spencer seems to be in the excuses business rather than in shops. The weather's never quite right. There's a supply-chain issue it couldn't control.
Women, suddenly, inexplicably, stop liking the colour red just as M&S launches a new line of red-only clothing. Next's figures show that shoppers do exist, that it is possible to increase sales just now – and that if you are not doing so, that may be your own fault.
It is only last month that Mr Bolland was branded the Bob Diamond of retail due to the disconnect – staff and shareholders said – between his pay and the company's performance.
That's harsh, but it is true that the company is losing market share and failing to capture the attention of the younger crowd, who seem to prefer Zara and H&M.
How much trouble is Mr Bolland in? At the moment, the City is giving him plenty of breathing space. Analysts think he has done some good work, especially on branding and structures. But there is no denying that underperformance in womenswear is not something that can be sustained for ever and a day.
He's got the wrong stuff in the shops, by common consent. He would survive one profits warning, but probably not two.
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