Marks & Spencer all at sea as Kate Bostock is shoved overboard

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What do you do when you are captain of the ship and you are heading for the rocks? Push a man overboard and hope the hullabaloo distracts all the passengers from the crunching sound when the ship runs aground.

Marc Bolland, under increasing pressure for the poor performance of Marks & Spencer's clothing business, has persuaded Kate Bostock, head of general merchandise, to leave the business.

M&S (LSE: MKS.L - news) says it is "by mutual consent", but Bostock has no other job to go to. She  has spent much of the past two years trying to use the pages of a certain newspaper to bid up her salary. Monthly rumours would be printed that she was off to Asos.com, that she was off to New Look, that she was very unhappy. Ever since she missed out on the top job to Mr Bolland two years ago she has struggled to be enthusiastic at all the company's public meetings.

All of this served to highlight how she was failing to crack the most difficult nut of them all: return M&S to the days when nearly every woman in the country had some of its clothes not just in their wardbrobes, but also in their affections.

Will her departure be enough to turn the business around?

Let's be clear - these first-quarter figures are terrible. Yes, both April and June were the wettest respective April and June on record. This has certainly put consumers off buying swimsuits, summer blouses and flip flops, as well as deterring them from visiting the hight street. And M&S is heavily exposed, compared with many of its rivals, to womenswear and to the high street.

But a fall of 6.8pc in general merchandise is the worst since Christmas 2008, and considerably worse than overall trading, as suggested in this morning's British Retail Consortium's figures. The BRC said that non-food sales had increased by 0.1pc over the same three-month period.

Womenswear is just not up to scratch. So, too, many of the stores, far away from head office, where they are still very difficult to find your away around.

It is to some credit to Ms Bostock that M&S feels the need to replace her with two individuals. John Dixon, the head of food, is widely seen as a "safe pair of hands" who has helped steer the food offer ever more upmarket and pioneer the hugely successful Dine-in-for-£10. Belinda Earl has a mixed retailing record - great success at Debenhams (LSE: DEB.L - news) , less so at Jaeger, which nearly collapsed earlier this year, though a few months after Ms Earl had left.

One thing is for sure: this management shake-up distracts some people from talking about the more difficult business of returning M&S's womenswear to its glory years.

[Related story: M&S to launch in-store bank branches]