'Knicker queen' walks out on Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer has parted company with the head of its crucial lingerie business after less than three months, in a shock exit that will pile the pressure on the retailer's chief executive, Marc Bolland.

Janie Schaffer, who joined in late January and was dubbed the "knicker queen", resigned from the high street giant last week after a bust-up over the amount of control she was given.

When M&S appointed Ms Schaffer in November, it described her as having a "stellar retail pedigree", which included the launch and ownership of the Knickerbox brand. Most recently, she had been chief creative officer at the US lingerie giant Victoria's Secret.

Her exit will add to the pressure on Mr Bolland, who took the helm in May 2010, and last week announced a 3.8 per cent fall in underlying clothing and homewares sales in its fourth quarter.

Some investors are already grumbling that the company has suffered seven consecutive quarters of falling sales in its general merchandise division, but M&S's food business posted another sharp rise in quarterly revenues.

According to sources close to Ms Schaffer, she was not given full control over the division she was hired to run. For example she did not have the final say over product packaging and marketing. They said she also faced a resistance to change within the retailer.

M&S confirmed her departure but declined to comment further. Her exit follows that of Kate Bostock, its head of clothing and homewares, who joined Asos last year. To stop the rot in its clothing business, M&S moved its head of food, John Dixon, to lead its fashion and homewares division last October and hired former Jaeger boss Belinda Earl as style director.

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