Terry Green, head of clothing at Tesco, is understood to be considering jumping ship to rival Marks and Spencer less than two years after he was charged with raising Tesco’s profile in the fashion stakes.
Stuart Rose, M&S’s chief executive, is understood to have held talks with Mr Green, an experienced fashion retailer, about bringing him on board.
Tesco said talk of Mr Green’s potential departure was “speculation”.
Mr Green made his name by turning round Debenhams in the late 1990s and he is credited with coming up with the Designers at Debenhams concept.
But he ran into trouble when Allders, the department store group in which he had a stake, collapsed in early 2005. He subsequently joined Tesco.
Mr Green’s appointment at Tesco was controversial, with some observers questioning how long he would last. While at Allders, Mr Green had been criticised for alienating his ageing customer base and failing to make the store’s clothing appealing to younger shoppers.
Fuelling speculation of any move to M&S, Mr Green is known to be a close friend of Mr Rose. The two men were colleagues at the Burton Group in the 1990s.
The possible move by Mr Green comes as M&S’s overhaul of its clothing business, which had been losing sales in the 1990s, starts to pay off following a restructuring.
The retailer lowered its entry-price points in clothing to compete with its discount-led high street rivals. It also improved the availability of its clothing in stores and tried to introduce more fashionable womenswear.
It backed the changes with a high-profile advertising campaign, “Your M&S”, featuring Twiggy, the model.
More recently, Mr Rose has put faster-moving fashion lines on the racks and shelves and overhauled tired-looking stores. The changes have helped M&S restore the aspirational appeal of its brand while extending its cheaper clothing ranges.
Tesco has also been trying to stay on top of the fashion market to keep up with the likes of Primark and Next as shoppers pursue cheaper clothing lines. Tesco has tried to broaden its presence in clothing, selling its full range at its Extra stores.