Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose has for the first time signalled his intention to step down from the helm of the high street giant ahead of the July 2011 date previously earmarked for his retirement.

In a media interview over the weekend, Rose said: “It’s quite clear: I said I would extend my tenure at the latest to July 2011. What we said, effectively, was that was to allow us to work out the succession.

“I will stay there to make sure they know where the lavatories and the seventh-floor cafeteria are. Then I will be gone.”

Rose added that running the business had “completely eaten up [his] life”, saying “I've always used my work as a refuge, as an excuse. If my private life is unhappy, I've had my head in the sand.

“Now I'm saying I've done with work in that sense. I've got a sense of responsibility [to M&S] and I'll put it right. But I want to put myself in a position where I'm having more fun.”

Last week the field of internal candidates to succeed Rose was narrowed with the announcement that international operations head Carl Leaver is quitting the business. That came after M&S reported a 39.9% fall in full-year pre-tax profits.