Retailers painted a gloomy picture of the high street this week as several big names failed to cash in on the Christmas shopping season.
Like-for-like sales at M&S' clothing arm fell 2.8 per cent as chief executive Steve Rowe failed to deliver the fashion turnaround he had promised investors. Food sales, which have supported the business for a number of years, were also in decline, falling 0.4 per cent.
Molly Johnson-Jones, senior analyst at retail consultancy GlobalData Retail, said the food figures were a serious problem for Rowe.
"I think he will be replaced quite soon," she added.
"The main reason M&S has suffered such a decline is that consumers are searching for everyday essentials at the lowest price possible.
"Ultimately the way they need to be going is food on the go. It’s a much higher growth market."
Clive Black, retail analyst at Shore Capital, said Rowe may stay in place, but that the City can expect a management shake-up further down, including in the food department.
Meanwhile, Christmas trading figures from the non-food sector have shown signs of significant distress, with Debenhams, Card Factory and Moss Bros all warning on profits. House of Fraser, which has been asking for rent reductions from landlords, posted a decline in both online and store sales.
Independent retail analyst Richard Hyman said the industry should brace itself for administrations in the year ahead.
"You do not have to look further than the [retailers] who have already demonstrated some distress," he said.
"Imagine what it is going to be like in quarter one when revenues are thinner - 2018 is going to be the year of retail distress. Quarter day in March is going to be interesting. That is when a large amount of retail is going to have a large rent bill to pay."